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Scientists prove that lunch came before breakfast
July 16, 2010 7:00 AM   Subscribe

Scientists in Edinburgh have determined that the chicken came before the egg.

More scientific explanation here.
posted by educatedslacker (38 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
That is the worst science reporting I've seen in several weeks.
posted by echo target at 7:06 AM on July 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


But where did the scientists come from?
posted by swift at 7:08 AM on July 16, 2010


The very first chicken sprang from the forehead of Zeus, as is well known.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:09 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, they're calling this thing a chicken protein, but they don't say it's exclusively found in chickens. Do other birds form different kinds of eggs with different proteins? I know reptiles lay leathery eggs, but every bird egg I've seen is hard like a chicken egg. Is this something found in all birds/egg-laying things and they're just coming at it from the chicken angle because it's cute?
posted by phunniemee at 7:09 AM on July 16, 2010


The really exciting thing is that future scientists will be able to build on this research to establish why it crossed the road.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:10 AM on July 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


I always had a hunch the chicken came before the dinosaur.
posted by opsin at 7:13 AM on July 16, 2010


I never considered the egg in question to have a shell. It's about the ovum itself. What the hell are they blathering on about?
posted by sunshinesky at 7:13 AM on July 16, 2010


Well done for repeating that joke.
posted by the cuban at 7:13 AM on July 16, 2010


I once found some bear shit in the woods, and I don't think anyone carried it in and dropped it there. Pretty sure the bear put it there. So, you know, we can close the book on that one too.
posted by jquinby at 7:14 AM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Which came first? The lazy science journalist or the PR flack?
posted by Electric Dragon at 7:16 AM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Next up: Scientists discover how many angels can dance on the head of a pin!
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 7:16 AM on July 16, 2010


I once found some bear shit in the woods,

I think I found some Pope poop once.
posted by Mcable at 7:20 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can't wait until they have an interview with this esteemed clapping researcher.
posted by echo target at 7:21 AM on July 16, 2010


Fucking chickens, how do they work?
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:23 AM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


How is chikken formed?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:24 AM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


i thought the rooster came first - guys usually do
posted by pyramid termite at 7:30 AM on July 16, 2010


Yes, the cock came first.
posted by swift at 7:30 AM on July 16, 2010


Great hook, terrible writing. The second link is marginally better. Both are based on the Warwick University's press release, based in turn on this journal article.

I guess this group's result is to have identified the protein and the process responsible for making chicken eggs rigid, as opposed to the leathery eggs laid by reptiles and monotremes or the shell-less eggs laid by amphibians. Neat, but a narrow definition of "egg."

I like yesterday's addendum to the university press release:
"Does this really prove the chicken came before the egg? Well this actually further underlines that it's a fun but pointless question. This science does however give new insight into an efficient and fast method of crystallisation. It will help in research to devise better synthetic bone and research into how to store/sequester CO2 as limestone."
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 7:31 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


This was covered by Pharyngula recently. Other birds use different proteins. And of course, eggs long predate birds.
posted by Humanzee at 7:32 AM on July 16, 2010


I've always reasoned it like this:

1) The first chicken must have had a pair of parents who would very, very nearly (but not quite) meet our definition of the word "chicken". Evolution has brought them to the very edge of chickenhood, but is still one tiny step from getting them there.

2) The unique combination of DNA which these particular near-chickens produce gives their offspring that crucial little tweak which pushes it - the offspring - into full-blown chicken status.

3) The offspring has full chicken DNA even while still in the in the egg, therefore the egg's a chicken egg even though neither of its parents were chickens.

4) That means there was a chicken egg before there was ever a chicken. So the egg came first.

Discuss...
posted by Paul Slade at 7:53 AM on July 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


British researchers say the chicken must have come first as the formation of eggs is only possible thanks to a protein found in the chicken’s ovaries.

It must really suck to be a chicken in Africa when the ostriches attack you and jam their own giant leathery egg up your cloaca so it can grow a proper shell.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:08 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Paul Slade: "therefore the egg's a chicken egg even though neither of its parents were chickens"

I'm not a biologist, but I think this is where your logic breaks down. The egg is akin to a mammel's placenta. It's a part of the mother's body, built to contain the fetus. In your analysis, it's a chicken egg in the sense that it is the egg that the chicken is in. But let's make the "almost-a-chicken" mother and the "is-a-chicken" child really different. Say the former was a platypus. In this case, it would just be a platypus egg that happens to contain a chicken.

Not to mention that speciation isn't a point-process like that. You can't look at one birth event and say "this is where a non-chicken became a chicken".
posted by Plutor at 8:17 AM on July 16, 2010


This study is no feather in their cap; in fact it isn't worth chicken feed. If you believe this is the final answer to which came first, all I can say is "Don't count your chickens before they hatch." Doing this research before figuring out how the first chicken evolved is putting the cart before the horse. Who's egging them on to do this kind of research?

I swear, scientists change direction so often on these questions; they're running around like... some sort of bird with... a traumatic fatal injury or something. Definitive answers are as rare as hen's teeth. And that just leaves the general public feeling scrambled and walking on eggshells. It won't be long before the hens come home to roost.

This warning is like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted, but : Don't believe every scientific fish tale you hear. You'll wind up with egg on your face.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:19 AM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think I found some Pope poop once.

Huh. I've got a bear with a funny hat.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:24 AM on July 16, 2010


Plutor, the placenta develops from the blastocyst and is part of the fetus's body.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 8:42 AM on July 16, 2010


Plutor said: "I'm not a biologist, but I think this is where your logic breaks down. The egg is akin to a mammel's placenta. It's a part of the mother's body, built to contain the fetus. In your analysis, it's a chicken egg in the sense that it is the egg that the chicken is in. But let's make the "almost-a-chicken" mother and the "is-a-chicken" child really different. Say the former was a platypus. In this case, it would just be a platypus egg that happens to contain a chicken."

I'm not a biologist either - which will come as a huge shock to everyone - but what I actually meant was that the unique combination of DNA in the egg would be chicken DNA even though neither mummy nor daddy's lone DNA had been.

And, whatever definition you adopt, surely there must have been one individual creature that first satisfied it. Wouldn't there have been one individual creature who first had just enough of the right DNA at birth to make him a man rather than a monkey? Even if the crucial difference was only 0.000001%? I know evolution is a slow process, but at some point that line has to be crossed, and only one individual can do it for the first time.
posted by Paul Slade at 9:01 AM on July 16, 2010


Evolution has brought them to the very edge of chickenhood

I could be wrong, but this seems like a tricky and potentially misleading kind of species essentialism, and it leaves open the whole "phyletic gradualism" vs. "punctuated equilibrium" debate.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 9:11 AM on July 16, 2010


Paul Slade: the unique combination of DNA in the egg would be chicken DNA even though neither mummy nor daddy's lone DNA had been[....]
only one individual can do it for the first time.


I don't think we can ever draw a bright line like that to say "this DNA is chicken DNA". Speciation is not a "one generation to the next" event, and nor is a species a fixed population. The existence of "ring species" is evidence for this.
posted by Electric Dragon at 9:16 AM on July 16, 2010


the very edge of chickenhood

I like this as a concept, as I find myself scared and wanting to flee a lot, but every once in a while, I'll stand my ground.

I exist at the edge of chickenishness.
posted by quin at 10:09 AM on July 16, 2010


it would just be a platypus egg that happens to contain a chicken.

It doesn't matter; the question is "what came first: the chicken or the egg?" not "what came first, the chicken or the chicken egg." Obviously we can tell from the fossil record that eggs have been around a lot longer than chickens, and presumably chicken's evolutionary forebears were laying eggs long before they came even close to what we would consider chickens.
posted by Dr. Send at 10:32 AM on July 16, 2010


I always thought that question was just a joke highlighting the folly of attempting to classify species etc. along concrete lines. Maybe I overthought stuff as a kid.
posted by davejay at 10:37 AM on July 16, 2010


Obviously we can tell from the fossil record that eggs have been around a lot longer than chickens, and presumably chicken's evolutionary forebears were laying eggs long before they came even close to what we would consider chickens.

I always thought this obvious.

But then, I was always that guy.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:45 AM on July 16, 2010


jquinby: "I once found some bear shit in the woods, and I don't think anyone carried it in and dropped it there. Pretty sure the bear put it there. So, you know, we can close the book on that one too."

All joking aside, I can say that for real. It's more than a little bit frightening to find a large pile of fresh bear scat right in the middle of the trail. Especially when backtracking after hitting a dead end, and knowing full well that pile of dung wasn't there when you first passed the spot less than 10 minutes before.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:06 AM on July 16, 2010


Yeah but come on we still don't know how much wood a woodchuck would chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood!! GET ON IT, SHEEPLE SCIENTISTS!
posted by spicynuts at 11:25 AM on July 16, 2010


Yeah but come on we still don't know how much wood a woodchuck would chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood!! GET ON IT, SHEEPLE SCIENTISTS!
He could chuck a quarter of a cord of wood if you paid him a quarter for ever cord he chucked.

as for the chicken v. egg...of course the chicken came first. For you see, the chicken had to get laid before the egg could.
posted by namewithoutwords at 11:32 AM on July 16, 2010


Which came first, the chicken, turkey, duck, or turducken?
posted by rzrc at 1:19 PM on July 16, 2010


And lo, then did the chicken come before the egg,
And was dipped therein, and rolled amongst crumbs of bread;
In hot oil was the fowl then baptised,
And when the Lord did retrieve the bird from the Holy oil,
The villagers cried out and knelt in amazement,
For they beheld that the chicken had been made golden.
And the villagers did eat of it, and the Lord saw that it was finger-lickin' good.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:43 PM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Primordial ooze wins every time.
posted by bwg at 4:35 PM on July 16, 2010


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