While researching and educating myself about evolution, I've come across an interesting claim that I'd like to learn more about, but so far, I've only been able to find the claim and no sources or evidence. For example consider following:
Scientists blocked the production of one protein in chicken eggs, and the chicks were born with scales rather than feathers. - Information Theory and Intelligent Design Can Information Increase in a Biological System
A single point mutation turns feathers back into scales in chickens -Feathers, Fables, Dinosaurs and Ham
Now I did find another claim which provided a source, but it appears to be saying something different (the opposite in away), and the sited link (Poling, J. 1996. Feathers, scutes and the origin of birds. Dinosauria on-line. Retrieved April 11, 2007) is broken:
Experiments show that the same protein (when missing before birth) that causes bird feet to stay webbed, causes bird scutes and scales to become feathers (Poling 1996) - New World Encylcopedia
I'm aware that the debate on the origin of feathers (and flight) is ongoing among scientists with several hypotheses being proposed, as very well described in a recent National Geographic article from Feb 2011. While I am interested in this in general, I'm currently trying to make sense of the claims mentioned above. Can they be substantiated, or are they baseless? I've spent about an hour searching online and haven't found anything but ambiguity (which scientists, which protein/mutation, etc).
I also found this related claim at evolutionwiki.org, emphasis mine:
Scientists have actually discovered that the same protein (when missing at birth) that keeps bird feet webbed causes reptile scales to become feathers. Birds thus could be descended from any number of reptilian species, also clear and powerful evidence for the evolution of birds from reptiles.
This claim here seems to be a variation of the one above, but with reptile being used instead of bird. It is for reasons like this, and for lack of references, that I am very skeptical of these claims. They give the impression that a key gene mutation that stops the production of a protein will cause chicks to be born without feathers and instead contain scales. Or that again, a key gene mutation that stops the production of a protein will cause a developing reptile to be born with feathers instead of scales. This later claim seems even more extraordinary if you ask me.