The Turducken — a duck stuffed inside a chicken stuffed inside a turkey — is a mythical culinary beast and the dream entree of Thanksgiving obsessives everywhere. And now, science is on its way towards making the Turducken a reality — sort of: a duck has successfully fathered a chicken at the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory in Dubai.
Researchers injected a chicken’s germ cells — carrying DNA to produce eggs and sperm — into the reproductive organs of a male duck embryo; once the duck matured, it began to produce the chicken’s sperm. Initially looking to genetically modify chicken to produce more fertile hens (the global poultry industry currently maintains some 50 billion chickens), these scientists are now planning to use this technique to allow hens to lay eggs of other birds, including ducks, songbirds, hawks or eagles.
The ultimate goal is to ”use this system to propagate endangered species or potentially bring back an extinct one,” according to a recent TEDx talk by Mike McGrew, a scientist at the Roslin Institute who collaborates extensively with the Dubai team. Roslin Institute researchers have also created genetically modified chickens that prevent the spread of bird flu and — most notably — Dolly the sheep, the world’s first cloned mammal.