Scientists want to know as to how the drumstick, or lower leg bone, of modern birds have evolved. They have created chicken embryos that have legs nearly identical to those of prehistoric extinct dinosaurs.
Study’s senior researcher Alexander Vargas of the University of Chile’s Department of Biology said that they have created the embryos by inhibiting the activity of a single gene. Vargas said that their experiments are focused on single traits.
In extinct dinosaur, the comparable bone known as the fibula was tube-shaped and reached down to the ankle. When the evolution took place from dinosaurs to birds, the fibula lost its lower end and did not connect to the ankle.
Vargas explained that many years back, it has been proved that the bird embryo develop a tubular, dinosaur-resembling fibula. When the embryo continues to grow then the leg bone becomes shorter than the other bone in the lower leg known as the tibia and acquires its adult drumstick shape.
The researchers then thought that if they block a single bird bone maturation gene, called Indian Hedgehog (IHH), then they would result into modern birds with dinosaur legs. For now, the researchers have done the experiment in chicken, but are confident to do the same in birds as well.
As per the experiment, the fibula lost its lower end and allowed the evolution for the tibias that are much longer. They are able to bear much of the body’s weight and play an important role in movement and locomotion.
“Not only do we know a great deal about bird development, but also about the dinosaur-bird transition, which is well-documented by the fossil record. This leads naturally to hypotheses on the evolution of development, that can be explored in the lab”, affirmed Vargas.