You already know about the evolutionary areas of overlap between dinosaurs and modern-day birds. Now one group of researchers is using those similarities for science, by attaching a prosthetic tail to a chicken to study how dinosaurs might have walked.

Top Image: A chicken wearing a prosthetic dinosaur tail / via video at PLOS ONE


In a paper entitled "Walking Like Dinosaurs: Chickens with Artificial Tails Provide Clues about Non-Avian Theropod Locomotion" published on PLOS ONE, researchers led by Bruno Grossi of the Universidad de Chile expound on the problem of studying dinosaur gaits. A close cognate, they say, could be the chicken. Except for one problem: The lack of a dinosaur tail.

Not having a tail creates considerable differences in the way chickens move and the way the researchers theorize that bidpedal dinosaurs moved, especially in the the position of the knee, the center of mass, and the role of the femur in limb movement. The answer? Raise chickens with a prosthetic dinosaur tail, which they say gives chickens a gait that more closely resembles that of the dinosaurs.

In this diagram, researchers show just how the changes in femur position work on a mechanical level:

Image: Diagram of femur position and posture in chickens, as impacted by the presence of a prosthetic tail / PLOS ONE


So now that they've made chickens walk a little more like dinosaurs, what do the researchers intend to do with it? Well, researchers say that they can use their new dinochickens to test hypotheses about dinosaur locomotion and get a better idea of just how dinosaurs used to move.