A group of researchers from Chile have altered the genes of some chickens so that they can be fitted with dinosaur feet. Thus, the scientists have wanted to resurrect the prehistoric features of chickens. This strange experiment is called "reverse evolution."

Dinosaurs are the ancestors of today's birds

Dinosaurs -- the ancestors of today's birds -- had a fibula shaped as a tube that stretched to the ankle. Over time, because of evolution, the fibula was shortened and became similar to modern birds short fibula. In birds, the fibula is the outside bone from the lower part of the leg that evolved over time. This bone became shorter than the tibia of a bird and it does not connect with the ankle anymore.

It was observed that in the embryonic stage, the birds develop first a tubular fibula similar to the one seen in dinosaurs. In the process of development this bone becomes similar to a splinter and it grows near the tibia.

Reversing the evolutionary process

The Brazilian researcher Joao Botelho reversed the evolutionary process to understand this transformation. Normally the bone's tube grows faster than its tops and it stops cell division. Botelho made some interesting findings after the experiments at the University of Chile. He observed that the lower tip of the bone was active in the early development stage and then the cell division and growth stopped. Researchers say that the early maturation -- responsible for stopping the growth of the fibula -- is caused by a bone near the ankle called the calcaneus.

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In birds this bone presses the lower head of the fibula. To obtain a shape of the bone similar to a dinosaur one, the maturation gene was inhibited. This gene is called Indian Hedgehog. After this intervention the chickens kept their tubular fibula. It has remained connected to the ankle for a long time -- just like a dinosaur bone.

The results confirm evolution

The results are consistent with the evolutionary models demonstrated in the study of fossils. The researcher found that the chickens with dinosaur feet have a much shorter tibia than normal. Botelho said these experiments are focused on the unique features of the species and they are designed to test specific hypotheses. He added that besides the fact that researchers know a lot about the evolution of birds, they  also know many things about the connection between dinosaurs and birds. This connection is well documented in the fossil record.