Building a dinosaur from a chicken | Jack Horner | Summary and Q&A

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Building a dinosaur from a chicken | Jack Horner


The speaker discusses his journey as a paleontologist and the limitations of trying to bring dinosaurs back to life, while suggesting an alternative idea of modifying chickens to resemble their dinosaur ancestors.

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Key Insights

  • ๐Ÿฆ– Dinosaurs were not the big, stupid, green reptiles people thought they were.
  • ๐Ÿž๏ธ Paleontologists like to find things rather than read things due to dyslexia.
  • ๐Ÿฅš Dinosaurs built nests, lived in colonies, and cared for their young.
  • ๐Ÿ” Birds are considered living dinosaurs, classified as non-avian (extinct) and avian (modern).
  • ๐Ÿ”ฌ Researchers have found blood vessels and proteins in dinosaur fossils, but not dinosaur DNA.
  • ๐Ÿงช Evolutionary tools like selection, transgenesis, and atavism activation can be used to modify chicken characteristics.
  • ๐Ÿค“ Creating a "chickenosaurus" can be a great educational tool for teaching evolutionary biology and developmental biology.
  • ๐Ÿ— A "cooler-looking" chicken could potentially have commercial value, like advertising an extra piece for Colonel Sanders.


When I was growing up in Montana, I had two dreams. I wanted to be a paleontologist, a dinosaur paleontologist, and I wanted to have a pet dinosaur. And so that's what I've been striving for all of my life. I was very fortunate early in my career. I was fortunate in finding things. I wasn't very good at reading things. In fact, I don't read much of... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Why did the speaker find it challenging to read and rely on books as a dyslexic paleontologist?

As a dyslexic individual, reading proves to be the hardest task for the speaker. Instead of relying on books, he focuses on hands-on exploration and discovering fossils in the field.

Q: Why were the speaker's discoveries significant in changing the understanding of dinosaur behavior?

The speaker's findings, such as the first dinosaur eggs and baby dinosaurs in nests, and evidence of dinosaurs living in colonies and caring for their young, challenged the previous belief that dinosaurs were solitary and unintelligent creatures.

Q: Why did the speaker and his colleagues focus on extracting DNA from a Tyrannosaurus rex?

The speaker and his colleagues attempted to extract DNA from a Tyrannosaurus rex because they wanted to replicate the process depicted in "Jurassic Park" and bring dinosaurs back to life.

Q: What did the speaker's former student discover inside the bone of a T. rex?

The speaker's former student, Dr. Mary Schweitzer, discovered structures resembling red blood cells and heme, the biological foundation of hemoglobin, inside the bone of a T. rex.

Q: Why did the speaker believe that dinosaur DNA cannot be successfully extracted?

Through various experiments and research, the speaker and his team found that dinosaur DNA breaks down too quickly to be successfully extracted, making it impossible to bring dinosaurs back to life as depicted in "Jurassic Park."

Q: Why are birds considered to be dinosaurs?

Birds are classified as dinosaurs because they share common ancestry with non-avian dinosaurs and possess certain ancestral characteristics. They are referred to as avian dinosaurs.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The speaker recounts his career as a paleontologist, highlighting his discoveries that changed the perception of dinosaurs as social creatures and challenged previous beliefs about their behavior.

  • The limitations of extracting dinosaur DNA and the idea of cloning dinosaurs, as depicted in "Jurassic Park," are discussed, leading to the realization that birds are actually living dinosaurs.

  • The speaker proposes a project to modify chickens in order to recreate certain characteristics of their dinosaur ancestors, such as teeth and a more primitive hand and tail structure.

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