A Future of Human-Eating Chickens

by Kimberly Peng

Trekking through a humid and dense forest, a white goat stands chained to a poll, eating the grasses that lay around it. Rain starts to pour as flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder create chaos. In an unexpected instant, the goat disappears, its chain broken and a puddle of blood left in its place. Silence ensues, and suddenly, out of an array of exotic plants, a tyrannosaurus rex emerges with its long sharp teeth and monstrous size, gazing into a white SUV filled with human prey…

And that is a mixture of what I remember from my first viewing of Jurassic Park and the series of nightmares that followed as a child. Trembling and grasping my blanket with tears running down my face, I was without a doubt frightened of being eaten one day by this reptile creature, yet I was so intrigued by what seemed so imaginary and impossible.

Dinosaurs have been extinct for over 65 million years with their fossils unraveled within the nineteenth century. And although we have inferred much about how they lived and where specific species of dinosaurs settled, we are still uncovering a great deal about them thanks to the advancement of technology. The most recent discovery that has been both disputed and accepted is that dinosaurs evolved into the birds that we see today because of the noticeable similarities in the proteins found in both animals. That means that their genetic make-ups are so comparable such that chickens or birds, in general, are descendants of the dinosaurs we thought were extinct.

Adding to this development are the experiments that are currently under way. Some scientists, particularly scientist, Jack Horner, whose work and character inspired the creation of Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park, have developed a plan to “make a dinosaur” given the recent exposure of soft tissue in 60-80 year old dinosaur fossils. These encounters of soft tissue found by Horner’s partner, Mary Schweitzer, have ushered scientists to find a sequence of dinosaur DNA that could ultimately help in the creation a dinosaur, however, no such discovery has been made so far. Despite their lack of success in finding DNA, Horner and others are convinced that they can bring about the birth of a “dino-chicken” by manipulating the genetic makeup of chickens, and taking into account the process by which an embryo becomes a chicken…

Flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder shake the city of New York. As the snow continues to fall, everything is completely covered in white. The streets are quiet except for the occasional car sirens beeping uncontrollably. All of a sudden, a car disappears, and what stands in its place is a monstrously large chicken with teeth of a dinosaur staring into an apartment window looking at its next human prey…

Of course, that is not an image of reality, but what if it could be? According to many Hollywood films, the plans and experiments to create a super being or a super creature always ends up badly with the animal escaping and wrecking havoc. Although it would be fascinating to see evolution being reversed to bring back the dinosaur, there could be serious consequences in doing so.

Take for instance the food chain. With the continued presence of global warming due to greenhouse gases within the atmosphere, ecosystems have already been drastically affected with populations of species diminishing due to disease or poisoning making sustainability for future generations seem rather precarious. Adding in a dino-chicken could further escalate this problem. Even with knowledge of dinosaur activities and those of the chicken, the incorporation of the dino-chicken would be like adding an invasive species that does not have a natural place within the food chain.

If you take the nutria in Louisiana for example, that is nonnative rodent in North America, you can see that adding a species that does not belong there has serious repercussions. Introduced by fur traders from South America, farms were damaged, and food supply for other species were greatly decreased due to the nutria’s lack of predators.

So, although the plan to make a dinosaur is exciting because of what it could mean for our understanding of its evolution, there are many uncertainties about what could happen in the future.  Sure, some of us would like to have a dino-chicken as a pet, but the genetic manipulation of an animal is something to ponder thoroughly because you cannot be too sure that chickens will not find us humans appetizing.

Photography from: kansasfreepress.com


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