Scientists changed scales on chicken feet to feathers by tweaking a single gene


By tweaking a specific gene, scientists have discovered a way to permanently transform the scales on a chicken’s feet into feathers. The results provide new insight into the bird’s evolutionary origins from dinosaurs.

“Like birds, it’s clear today that many dinosaurs were partially covered with feathers as well as scales,” said Michel Milinkovitch, a professor in the Department of Genetics and Evolution at the University of Geneva and co-author of the new research. “In birds, it’s similar. So, by altering this gene, we can actually expand or decrease the proportion of the body that’s covered by feathers or scales depending on when this gene is exactly expressed.”

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