Written by Lola Gayle

Using the fossil record as their guide, a Yale-led team of researchers has successfully replicated the molecular processes that led from dinosaur snouts to the first bird beaks.

The scientists successfully replicated ancestral molecular development to transform chicken embryos into specimens with a snout and palate configuration similar to that of small dinosaurs such as Velociraptor and Archaeopteryx.

But don’t call them dino-chickens, reports Jim Shelton for Yale News.

“Our goal here was to understand the molecular underpinnings of an important evolutionary transition, not to create a ‘dino-chicken’ simply for the sake of it,” Yale paleontologist and developmental biologist Bhart-Anjan S. Bhullar told Shelton.

“The beak is a crucial part of the avian feeding apparatus, and is the component of the avian skeleton that has perhaps diversified most extensively and most radically — consider flamingos, parrots, hawks, pelicans, and hummingbirds, among others,” Bhullar explained. “Yet little work has been done on what exactly a beak is, anatomically, and how it got that way either evolutionarily or developmentally.”

Click here to find out more about their work.

Image Above: This is an artist’s rendition of the nonavian dinosaur Anchiornis and a modern tinamou with premaxillary and palatine bones highlighted. Credit: John Conway