Scientists Discover New Chicken-Like Dinosaur by Studying Mystery Eggs

Posted by Daphne Cybele
chicken-like dinosars
Wired Magazine

Do your chickens have dinosaur genes?

Scientists have recently identified two new dinosaur species that look very much like a chicken! The first is an oviraptorosaur (Beibeilong sinensis). This dinosaur has some familiar chicken-like features: laying eggs, clawed feet, feathers, and a raptor-sharp gaze.

Yet this dinosaur fossil is a lot bigger than the chicken we know and love today: the fossilized eggs of this species are 15-24 inches long and weigh about eleven pounds each. The likely size of this ancient dinosaur’s nest is ten feet across, with a two dozen or more stacked eggs. And the size of a broody dinosaur sitting on this monster-sized nest? 24 feet long and well over 2,000 pounds!

Dinosaur Beibeilong sinensis by Zhao Chuang with chicken characteristics
Artist rendering of the giant Beibeilong sinensis by Zhao Chuang – a chicken-like dinosaur with eleven-pound eggs. Via Wired Magazine

While the eggs of this new species were discovered in China during the 1990s, it has been a mystery until now what species of dinosaur could lay such large eggs. A 15-inch-long fossilized embryo found within one of the eggs, now known as “Baby Louie,”  is the missing link scientists needed to identify this new dinosaur species.

Another chicken-like species, known as Jianianhualong tengi, was more recently discovered in Liaoning China, and it had a beak full of teeth! An artist rendering shows a feather-covered dino with an estimated size of about three feet tall. It looks like a cross between a pheasant and a chicken.

Thankfully, modern chickens do not have teeth.

A dinosaur that looks like a chicken: Jianianhualong tengi by Julius T. Csotonyi
Reconstruction of Jianianhualong tengi (a chicken-like dinosaur with teeth) by Julius T. Csotonyi via Nature

Finally, most of us are familiar with the famous Tyrannosaurus Rex, or “T. Rex.” Look closely at your chicken flock…do you notice any similarities? T. Rex may not have any feathers, but T. Rex has big clawed feet, an upright gait, very small arms, and is an excellent hunter.

Does your chicken perhaps look like a scaled down T. Rex with feathers? What about when a chicken is running up to you? If you have ever seen a chicken running after a treat, you know that chickens can hunt and pounce on treats as fast, if not faster, than any T. Rex!

So are your chickens actually related to dinosaurs?

Advances in science and in gene sequencing allow us to study the DNA of modern birds and their connections to other species. As a result of these genetic studies, many scientists now conclude that chickens and turkeys are the closest living relatives to dinosaurs, and that perhaps dinosaurs evolved into the chickens and turkeys we know today.

Just one more reason to treat your flock with respect!

Do you think your chickens are like dinos? Tell us in the comments below!

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Scientists Discover New Chicken-Like Dinosaur by Studying Mystery Eggs