Scientists have undergone a new type of experiment to learn how birds evolved from dinosaurs. Recently, they transformed alligator scales into feathers in a laboratory successfully, and they believe that this new technique might help them unravel the mystery behind the evolution of birds from dinosaurs or in other words how dinosaur developed feathers. Lead author Cheng-Ming Choung, a professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, explained that as in case of human evolution brain is the greatest achievement, just like that, in birds, it is the feathers.
According to the study, early ancestors of modern birds possessed scales, that means the dinosaur era birds had scales and those scales evolved into feathers that you see in those modern birds. For the experiment, the researchers identified the feather-forming jeans in modern birds and stimulated the same type of genes in alligator embryos. The result surprised the scientists they found that the alligator scales got transformed into feathers successfully.
Previous studies reveal that most of the dinosaurs possessed feathers know as protofeathers, which were made up of branched filaments. These feathers” weren’t just found on the small bird-like dinosaurs. Massive tyrannosaurs like Yutrannus (almost 30 foot-long) also had a layer of protofeathers on them.
But scientists revealed most of the present day birds do not have those protofeathers, that means, dinosaurs possessing protofeathers were not necessarily the ancestors of modern birds. Lead author Pascal Godefroit, director of Earth and life sciences at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences said, “It’s impossible that they flew. They were bipedal and had long legs with very, very short arms.” Archosaurs gave rise to dinosaurs and eventually birds and reptiles, including alligators. Scientists chose alligators for the experiment because reptiles are considered as the closest living relatives of birds.
According to the scientists, alligators are almost biologically identical to their ancestors (Archosaurs) from 8 million years ago. So, for them using alligator scales to study the evolution of birds was the most preferred option. The exact reason behind the evolution of birds is still a mystery because scientists believe that some dinosaurs evolved into birds that still had scales, while other dinosaurs developed feathers. So, the latest research might help the scientists to get some important clues related to the evolution of birds from dinosaurs. “We now have a potential molecular explanation for these hypothesized missing links,” stated Chuong. He informed that their team managed to successfully convert scales into feathers by making the main molecular circuits turn off and turn on at critical stages of scale growth and development. Chuong further said, “These results show that different perturbations cause different levels of scale to feather conversion, implying that scales have the capability to form feathers given the proper molecular signals.”
As per the latest reports, the research team has contacted plastic surgeons, and both will be collaborating with each other to figure out how the latest research can rejuvenate human scar tissue. According to the plastic surgeons, the scar tissues often do not allow the formation of new skin cells even if the affected area is completely healed. Hence, this latest research, where scientists successfully manipulated the alligator scales into feathers, can help scientists better understand the evolution of flight and at the same time, it can also prove to be a path-breaking find in skin regeneration treatment.