Chickens and Turkeys are the Birds Most Closely Related to Dinosaurs

First Posted: Dec 12, 2014 11:26 AM EST

Which birds are most like their ancient ancestors, the dinosaurs? That's a question that scientists have finally answered. They've discovered that chickens and turkeys have experienced fewer genomic changes than other birds as they evolved from their dinosaur ancestor.

In this case, the scientists delved into bird genomes in order to get a clearer picture of species evolution. It's thought that these birds underwent a rapid burst of evolution after most dinosaur species were wiped out.

The scientists studied data from a total of 21 avian genomes and one reptile species. More specifically, they focused on the six best-assembled genomes to put together a karyotype, which is an organized profile, of the dinosaur ancestor for each chromosome.

 "Bird genomes are distinctive in that they have more tiny microchromosomes than any other vertebrate group," said Darren Griffin, one of the researchers, in a news release. "These small packages of gene-rich material are thought to have been present in their dinosaur ancestors. We found that the chicken has the most similar overall chromosome pattern to its avian dinosaur ancestor."

The findings reveal a bit more about bird evolution. Not only that, but it appears that chromosomes of the chicken and turkey lineage have undergone the fewest number of changes compared to their ancient avian ancestor, which is thought to be a feathered dinosaur.

The findings are published in the journal BMC Genomics.

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