Jack Horner, the dinosaur hunter who was science advisor to the Jurassic Park movies, wants to create a real dinosaur.  He won’t use the movie method, trying to extract blood from Jurassic amber, because “DNA degrades too quickly,” he said.  But he has a method he thinks will work: un-evolve a chicken back into its dinosaur ancestor.

Stephanie Pappas on Live Science had to caution readers that her dino-chicken interview with Horner was  a “wacky but serious science idea” of 2011.  Horner’s thesis appears to be based on Haeckel’s recapitulation theory, vestigial organs, and a firm faith in Darwinian evolution:

Anyone who’s seen “Jurassic Park” knows that birds are dinosaurs, part of the evolutionary line containing those toothy Velociraptors. What’s less known is that organisms carry their evolutionary history with them. Human embryos, for example, have temporary tails, which are absorbed by the body during development. Rarely, babies are born with vestigial tails, the result of scrambled genetic processes that prevent the tail from getting re-absorbed. These evolutionary remnants are called atavisms.

Horner believes that all the genes and regulatory mechanisms for dinosaurs are present in the DNA of a chicken.  All science needs to do is learn which genes or regulators can be switched on and off to turn a wing back into its evolutionary precursor, an arm with claws, and so on.  This would be a real twist on Goldschmidt’s old saltational theory of evolution; only this time, a bird will lay an egg and a dinosaur will hatch….

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