Science!: Chickens, Musclefish and X-Ray Vision

Lauren Admire | 15 Mar 2010 17:00

Jurassic Chicken Park

Did anyone else watch Jurassic Park and think, man, this would just be so much cooler with chickens? No? Well, neither did I, but if researchers led by Dr. Michael Bunce have their way, extinct birds may be the very first animals introduced into such a fantastical theme park.

At Murdoch University in Perth, Australia, researchers have successfully extracted bits of genetic material from the inner membranes of intact eggshells. A few of the eggshells they practiced on were from a moa - a bird that lived 19,000 years ago; an ancient 10-foot tall, 800 plus pound elephant bird, a New Zealand duck and an Australian owl.

Don't go trying to purchase your ticket to Jurassic Chicken Park just yet. The team only extracted a pithy 250 base pairs of DNA, which isn't enough to recreate an entire animal, but is enough to give clues as to the physiology and diets of these ancient birds. Bunce emphasized that the point of the experiment was to show that it could be done, and that extracting even larger sequences of DNA would be the next step in their research.

Originally, researchers tried to extract DNA from eggshells through the bone, and not eggshells. This method failed horribly, because they ran into issues of contamination. By withdrawing DNA directly from the inner membrane, they were able to bypass the threat of bacterial infestation which often occurs in bone, and extract DNA samples that were less likely to be contaminated.

"We can reassemble the genome to get an idea of what an extinct species looked like," Bunce explained. "But [resurrecting it] is still in the realm of science fiction. It's completely hypothetical, and frankly not a debate I really want to have."

Personally, I want the dodo back. No, wait... a gigantoraptor. No! A gigantododo. Yeah.

Source: Red Orbit

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