Attach a Tail to a Chicken and Watch a Mini Dinosaur Strutting Around

Sticking a fake dinosaur tail onto a living chicken helps researchers approximate how those animals once walked and moved

Photo: Caroline Watchmaus

From fossils, researchers know how dinosaurs' physiology was laid out. But how those ancient animals actually moved remains something of a mysery. To try and figure out what a dino in motion might have looked like, a team of experts turned to a close living relative: the chicken. 

First, however, they had to make a small modification to the unsuspecting chicken. As the team writes in a recent paper, unlike dinosaurs, "Living birds maintain an unusually crouched hindlimb posture and locomotion powered by knee flexion, in contrast to the inferred primitive condition of non-avian theropods: more upright posture and limb movement powered by femur retraction." In other words, to change the bird's center of mass, that chicken needed a tail. 

The team attached a faux dinosaur tail to a (most likely confused) young chicken, who then was raised wearing the tail as if it were natural. The chicken quickly acclimated, and the team eventually filmed it walking about so they could analyze its movements. They found that the tail-wearing chicken had a "more posteriorly located centre of mass, and showed a more vertical orientation of the femur during standing and increased femoral displacement during locomotion."

Until a real-life Jurassic Park becomes a possibility, chickens, it seems, are a decent substitute for recreating how long-extinct dinosaurs used to move about. 

Here, you can check out a normal chicken versus a dino-chicken in action: 

Walking Like Dinosaurs: Chickens with Artificial Tails Provide Clues about Non-Avian Thero

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