Scientist: Bird DNA could be 'de-evolved' to yield dinosaur genome

Dec. 23, 2013 at 5:21 PM

OXFORD, England, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Birds could be theoretically "de-evolved" to bring dinosaurs back to life, using their DNA to recreate the ancient reptiles, a British biochemist says.

By modifying certain genes found in the DNA of modern birds, Oxford biochemist Alison Woollard said, scientists might be able to recreate the genomes of the prehistoric creatures.

"We know that birds are the direct descendants of dinosaurs, as proven by an unbroken line of fossils which tracks the evolution of the lineage from creatures such as the velociraptor or T-Rex through to the birds flying around today," Woollard told the Daily Telegraph.

"This evolution implies that buried deep within the DNA of today's birds are switched-off genes that control dinosaur-like traits."

A major hurdle, she said, would be understanding the full length of a dinosaur's genome in order to know which edits to make to a bird's genome, since any surviving dinosaur DNA retrieved from fossils would be found only in very short fragments.

Still, she said, it remains theoretically possible, the British newspaper said.

"In theory we could use our knowledge of the genetic relationship of birds to dinosaurs to 'design' the genome of a dinosaur," Woollard said.

"However, despite the theoretical possibility, there are practical obstacles and ethical questions that cannot be ignored."

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