Bird beak evolution experiment described in Nature News, Science (AAAS) News and ScienceDaily 12 May 2015. During embryonic development of birds two bones that form in the front of the upper jaw region fuse together and grow forward to form the upper beak. In a developing reptile the two bones, named the premaxillae, remain separate and develop into the snout.

Palaeontologist Bhart-Anjan Bhullar and biologist Arhat Abzhanov and colleagues made a detailed study of the facial bones of birds, reptiles and dinosaurs. They then studied the pattern of gene expression in developing faces of emus, alligators, lizards and turtles. They found differences in expression of two genes labelled Fibroblast growth factor 8 (Fgf8) and WNT. In birds these are most active in the middle of the face. WNT seems to stimulate proliferation of cells in the mid of the face just before the bones form. In reptiles this gene is more active in the sides of the face.

The researchers then inhibited the expression of these genes in developing chicken embryos so that the patter of gene expression was more like that of a reptile. In some of the treated embryos the premaxillae stayed short and separate like that of reptiles and dinosaurs. Also, in some of the experimental embryos, the palatine bone, a bone in the roof of the mouth behind the upper jaw, developed to be more like that of a reptile. The researchers did not allow the eggs to hatch so they could not observe any further growth.

The ScienceDaily article summarised the experiment as: “Scientists have successfully replicated the molecular processes that led from dinosaur snouts to the first bird beaks.” The Nature News and Science articles are headed “How the Beak was Born” and “How birds got their beaks” respectively.

Link: Nature News, Science, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: Honesty Check Time folks! Since they started with birds, not dinosaurs, these scientists have not replicated the process of turning dinosaur snouts into bird beaks. What they have achieved is made useful beaks into totally useless appendages by preventing the poor birds from developing normal beaks.

Neither have they explained how birds came to have beaks. The fact that the partly developed (and unusable) bird faces resembled a developing reptile face is no surprise, as they had set out to manipulate the gene expression so it would be like a reptile. Full marks guys, but don’t lie about your results! You have proved that intelligent scientists can creatively manipulate gene expression, which has nothing to do with your pet evolution process that is supposed to have happened by chance randomness. Furthermore, you have not explained how the regulation of gene expression, or the genes themselves, came into being.

We predict that if you had allowed the eggs to hatch all they would have had is chickens with malformed faces that could not eat properly, so they would have been better eaten as a malformed omelette first. This is because our knowledge of bird and reptile genes, and their regulation, is woefully inadequate compared with the Creator who made them with proper beaks in the first place.

If by intelligent research we do happen to learn more about bird and reptile genes, and their expression, that should further confirm that living things are the product of creative design involving vast amounts of information, and scientists should give the credit to the One who made both birds and dinosaurs. Fess up guys, because you are going to have to one day! (Ref. ornithology, embryology, genetics, ontogeny)

Evidence News vol. 15, No. 8
20 May 2015
Creation Research Australia