Leading article: Birds of a feather?

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They are related, but thankfully we do not have to concern ourselves with pontificating over which came first; one had a pretty clear 68-million-year head start.

In the sort of experiment that will set running the imagination of anyone who enjoyed the technical bits of Jurassic Park, US scientists have analysed the structure of tiny shreds of collagen harvested from a fossilised Tyrannosaurus rex thigh bone.

What they have found is that the proteins in this sample indicate a surprisingly close link between the fearsome king of the dinosaurs and the somewhat less majestic king of the barnyard – the humble chicken. It seems that T. rex is more closely related, on a molecular level, to the common broiler than to today's carnivorous reptiles such as alligators. Talk about an interesting family tree. And talk about deceptive appearances.

For natural historians and biologists, this is further evidence to support the classic theory put forward by Thomas Henry Huxley in the 1860s – that dinosaurs were not entirely obliterated by extinction but evolved into the feathered creatures that still thrive on our planet. And if more samples of dinosaur protein are found and these techniques applied to them, an entirely new era in palaeontology could be about to open.

But for some of the rest of us, this discovery raises another, wholly irrelevant question: does this mean a T. rex steak would have tasted like chicken?

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