Dodging dinosaur chickens
Burt's Eye View
Scientists are building dinosaurs from chickens. Seriously.
I studied enough cheesy horror movies in my youth to know to be frightened. What next? Sabre-toothed cows?
Researchers this month announced they had modified the beak of a chicken embryo to resemble the snout of what they believe was the bird’s dino granddaddy’s. What they hope to do is to add teeth, a long tail and arms in place of wings to reverse engineer a chicken into the dinosaur they figure it once was.
Frankly, it does not sound like the kind of critter I want scrambling through my chicken coop. Somebody else can gather those eggs.
When I was a boy, Dad let my uncle move a flock of his chickens into our coop. My uncle neglected to mention that they were attack chickens trained to handle jobs too tough for Navy SEALS.
At least, that’s what my brothers and I figured must have happened when we tried to feed the foul fowls.
We’d try to sneak past the sentry so we could sweep the coop, change the water, drop feed and escape.
Every time, 30 feathery streaks of white, all armed with talons beaks sharpened on the bones of grizzly bears and mountain lions, charged at us. They peck right through our ratty sneakers, trying to snatch away our toes like they were big, fat dinosaur worms.
About the time we swore we saw one of the birds pull out a switchblade with at least 26 notches in the handle, we threw down the feed and ran.
Dad, of course, had no trouble with the birds. “You need to show them who’s boss,” he said.
“I dare you to take off the steel-toed boots and say that,” I said.
You know that scene in “Jurassic Park” when the herd of velociraptors hunted in vicious packs, ripping anything in their path to shreds with their snouts and teeth and long tails and arms? That’s what these chickens looked like to a 10-year-old boy.
That’s what I’m picturing when I read stories about scientists trying to channel chickens into dinosaurs. In fact, About.com says, “Velociraptor was the Cretaceous equivalent of a giant, feathered chicken.”
That’s all I need to know. I don’t care that all the rest of the chickens I’ve met over the years were friendly, even playful. I don’t care that the “Jurassic Park” version of the velociraptor actually is the bigger and scarier-looking raptor deinonychus. You just shouldn’t change chickens into dinosaurs.
Because scientists won’t stop there.
I don’t need that bat that got into the house the other night to be engineered into a terrorizing pterodactyl.
And would scientists be satisfied with converting a 9-foot-tall elephant into an 11-foot tall woolly mammoth? I think not. The next thing you know, one of them would try to tack the pterodactyl’s wings onto the woolly mammoth. Dumbo aside, do we really need flying elephants?
I believe the poem my Uncle Tom taught me sums up the situation quite nicely: “Birdie, birdie in the sky / Why’d you do that in my eye? / I’m sure glad elephants can’t fly.”
So please, let’s keep the birds feathery and friendly. The elephants grounded. And the cows without sabre teeth.
Although it would be interesting to finally find out how Fred Flintstone’s brontosaurus steaks tasted. With dinosaur chicken eggs.
— Write the old fossil Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.