Thursday, February 23, 2006

Rare as hens' teeth? Don't count on it!

Turns out maybe chickens could have teeth, after all.
Scientists have discovered a mutant chicken with a full set of crocodile-like chompers. The mutant chick, called Talpid, also had severe limb defects and died before hatching. It was discovered 50 years ago, but no one had ever examined its mouth until now.

The researchers recently created more Talpids by tweaking the genes of normal chickens to grow teeth. "What we discovered were teeth similar to those of crocodiles—not surprising as birds are the closest living relatives of the reptile," said Mark Ferguson of the University of Manchester."

By making a few changes to the expression of certain molecules in the pathway, the researchers were able to induce tooth growth in normal developing chickens. These teeth also looked like reptilian teeth and shared many of the same genetic traits, supporting the scientists' hypothesis. None of these chickens were allowed to hatch.

What would a chicken do with a tooth? Chickens do have remarkably few tools at their disposal--a beak and a set of claws, that's it. I guess they'd figure out a way to put teeth to use. They do seem to feel that they should have more resources than they do--when I am out digging in the garden, they stand around looking at my shovel with great interest, as if they're thinking, "We have to use our toes for that, but she has a tool!"

LiveScience.com - Surprise: Chickens Can Grow Teeth

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