The scientific community collectively applauded the recently released work of a team of British scientists, who finally solved a biological puzzle that has eluded the world's best minds for centuries. Research conducted by University of Warwick Professor Mark Rodger and Dr. David Quigley led them to an undeniable answer to the question, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"
The chicken came first
Their recently published report, Structural Control of Crystal Nuclei by Eggshell Protein, provides clear evidence that the chicken came before the egg. This finding is based on the function of a certain protein, ovocleidin-17, which is essential in the formation of the hard shell that encompasses the egg. The researchers, who burned up 5 million supercomputer core hours in their quest, discovered that ovocleidin-17 was only produced in a chicken's ovaries. Hence, the chicken must come first in order to produce the necessary protein to make the egg’s shell.
The process of making an egg is quite complex, as the editors of How Stuff Works explain:
It turns out the chicken has little to do with the formation of an egg's shell -- the egg actually grows the shell around itself! It does this using processes that are also seen in bones and seashells.
Around the egg is a membrane, and evenly spaced on the membrane are points where columns of calcite (a form of calcium carbonate) form. These columns stack together side by side to form the shell. According to an incredibly interesting book called Made to Measure by Philip Ball:
The nucleation points are defined protein nodules called mammillary protrusions, and the mineral is first deposited as particles of aragonite with random orientation of the crystal planes. On top of these aragonite piles, columns of oriented crystalline calcite begin to grow upward.
The calcite is basically floating in solution around the shell, and it deposits on the shell like a forming crystal. The egg grows its own shell! (Emphases in original.)
So even though the egg makes its own shell, it couldn't have happened if the chicken hadn't produced the necessary protein that facilitated its formation. Therefore, the chicken must have come first.
Nevertheless, this begs the question, “Where did the chicken come from?” It seems a little farfetched to think that this first chicken just mysteriously appeared out of nowhere.
The egg came first
This conundrum seemed to have been answered in an earlier work by another British researcher, Professor John Brookfield, a specialist in evolutionary genetics at the University of Nottingham. In 2006, Professor Brookfield released the results of his study in which he emphatically declared that the egg had to have come first. Of course, he didn't have the benefit of the findings of professors Rodger and Quigley, who discovered that the egg couldn't have formed without a chicken. However, not only did Professor Brookfield’s research “prove” that the egg came first, but he also showed the egg didn't come from a chicken (I'm not making this up).
The professor reasoned that the DNA in the first egg would have to be the same as that of the animal it produced, and the only way a real chicken could have been produced was from a real chicken egg. The question then becomes, where did the “real chicken egg” come from? The answer is quite simple: the chicken, most biologists believe, descended from the Red Jungle Fowl, which in the distant past laid a mutated egg and out popped a modern chicken.
As Professor Brookfield explained it, “I would argue it is a chicken egg if it has a chicken in it. If a kangaroo laid an egg from which an ostrich hatched, that would surely be an ostrich egg, not a kangaroo egg.”
It follows that the Red Jungle Fowl came from a mutated egg laid by a predecessor bird of some kind preceded by an innumerable line of mutated eggs going all the way back to dinosaurs and beyond.
What is not included in all this research is whether the first egg (or chicken) was a hen or a rooster. Adding to the complication is the question of how long did the hen (or rooster) have to wait for another mutated egg that contained its complementary partner—something reasonably necessary if the species is to be propagated.
Could the egg and the chicken have arrived at the same time?
Perhaps the most convincing research was done by Annals of Improbable Research staff member Alice Shirrell Kaswell. Kaswell separately packaged a chicken egg and a live chicken and simultaneously mailed them from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to New York City. She then traveled to New York to see which came first. Although it was a close race, the chicken arrived eleven hours before the egg, unequivocally proving that the chicken did indeed come first.
Kaswell's findings and unique method of research were not without controversy. It seems some were exceedingly critical of her subjecting a live animal to the rigors of spending two days within the U.S. Postal system. She assured everyone, however, that she rigorously followed the Postal Service's guidelines in its Domestic Mail Manual.
The last word
There is one other “theory” in the chicken/egg debate that answers all of the questions raised in the most complete and unambiguous way:
And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day. ~Genesis 1:20-23 (Emphasis mine.)
So the answer as to which came first, the chicken or the egg, is really quite clear: So God created... But what does He know.
Allan Dobras is a freelance writer on religious and cultural issues and an electronics engineer. He lives in Springfield, Va.
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