Science Answers One Of Life's Greatest Questions

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Thanks to a brave group of British researchers, the age-old question finally has an answer.

It's easy to see how the question would puzzle people. Chickens are born from eggs, so surely the egg formed first, right? But wait, chickens lay eggs, so in order for there to be an egg, a chicken had to lay it. If you ponder the question long enough, your brain starts doing little pinwheels in your skull. It's quite disturbing.

But no more! Now Dr Colin Freeman from Sheffield University, working with colleagues from Warwick University, believes the code has been cracked.

"It had long been suspected that the egg came first but now we have the scientific proof that shows that in fact the chicken came first."

Sonofabitch! I had my money down for the egg. That's $US20 I'll never see again.

It turns out there's a protein, ovocledidin-17 (OC-17), that's only found in the ovaries of chickens that is crucial to the formation of an egg's shell.

OC-17 coverts calcium carbonate into calcite crystals, which in turn form the shell. No OC-17, no shell, and since OC-17 is only found in chicken ovaries, the chicken had to have come first.

This is a sad day for members of Team Egg. The t-shirts will be relegated to dusty closet shelves and Goodwill bins, never to be seen again, until they become geek chic some 30 years from now.

Sad for Team Egg, but great for science, says Professor John Harding of Sheffield University.

"Understanding how chickens make shells is fascinating in itself but can also give clues towards designing new materials."

'The chicken came first, not the egg', scientists prove []


    Wow, science. I'm very disappointed in your findings.
    Basic logic and even a rudimentary grasp of evolutionary theory dictates that the egg came first, laid by something that was only one chromosome or so off being considered "a chicken".
    All Chickens come from eggs, but thanks to mutation the first chicken egg was laid by some prehistoric proto-chicken.
    Egg wins, get your $20 back.

      "Basic logic and even a rudimentary grasp of evolutionary theory dictates that the egg came first"

      If that's the case, who's to say that the chicken wasn't a mutation and first hatched from an egg that wasn't a chicken egg? I mean, this whole argument only refers to chicken eggs. Eggs in general were around long before the chicken.

      If the egg was laid by a creature "one chromosome or so off being considered a chicken” then the egg wasn't a chicken egg. It was a one chromosome or so off being considered a chicken egg.


        And what if the first chicken was actually in a placenta, not an egg?

          And what if you goddamned nerds went and got laid.

          Pun intended.

            +1 To your Internets Good Sir.

    Now hold on for a bit, the question was about Chickens specifically, not birds in general.

    Surely OC-17 is used by all birds to produce egg shells, therefore it was around way before chickens evolved as a species.

    I still think the question, specifically about the Chicken species, relates to the evolution of chickens, which still means that the first true chicken started as the first chicken egg laid from a pre-chicken species. The per-chickens also laid eggs, therefore the shell formation mechanism is irrelevant.

      So what you are basiaclly saying it now the debate is a matter of semantics.

      For arguements sake lets say a turkey laid what then became the egg of the first chicken. Is that egg considered a chicken egg or a turkey egg? Is the chicken considered a chicken while still in the egg or only once it's hatched?

      The original statement implies the egg would be considered a chicken egg, unless they believe the chicken evolved from a non-bird species.

      Of course creationists would love to hear that sciece has proven the chicken came first as it would be difficult to think of God having to sit on chicken eggs for three weeks.

        I see where you be coming from and I would say that being laid by a turkey would make it a Turkey egg and the chick itself is the abnormality resulting in the first chicken.
        Thus the chicken came first.

          Good point. The original question really is not defined very well, so can be interpreted in different ways.

          I always considered "the egg" to consist not only of the shell, but the chicken embryo contained inside. That way, the "Turkey" layes "the egg" containing the chicken embryo, which then hatches and grows into "the chicken" - therefore egg first.

          But the question that the scientist in the story is trying to answer, I believe, is "What came first: the evolution of bird life from earlier species, or the mechanism for production of protein OC-17 in birds". Since dinosaurs did lay eggs, and then evolved into birds, the real question may be "did Dinosaurs produce OC-17 for their eggs", a different question entirely.

        The debate has always been 'Chicken' or 'Egg'.
        The debate has never been what sort of egg the chicken came from.

        I say neither came first.
        Single cell organisms came first followed by evolution.

          Good point, I was going from a chicken egg point of view.

    Sounds like these scientists were the religious variety, basing their findings on the assumption that chickens were always chickens and evolution doesn't exist.

    I'm amazed how quickly this managed to turn into a religious debate, and without any input from anyone who seems to be a person of religious faith.

      I'm a christian and my take is that neither Christians nor scientists can 100% prove anything about the beginnings of life and should stop pretending they can.

        To quote Richard Dawkins. . .
        Science and Evolution can prove 99% of life, Earth and the Universe.
        Religion can prove 0%.

          Faith and science are not mutually exclusive - most people make it so because they have already made their decision before they look at the universe. Also, it's that 1% that is the kicker.

            They're not mutually exclusive, but they're hardly mutually beneficial either. In fact, it's the complete opposite.

          If religion proved anything, it wouldn't be called religion.

          Science doesn't prove what is, it only proves what isn't then makes up theories about everything else to make their calculations fit.

            Yeah, although "makes up" is a bit of a misleading creates theories to fit facts, rather than making up theories and distorting facts to fit them.

              Like climate change.
              The whole premise of climate change is warping scientific fact to fit incorrect theories.

    Umm... but for the chicken to exist, it would have had to have come from an egg - a chicken is a bird and all birds are born from eggs.

    It's obvious, the bird the chicken evolved from would have laid the egg containing the first chicken, therefore the egg came first.

    Although the egg was not born of a chicken, it was indeed the first chicken egg as it contained the first chicken - therefore, rationally, the chicken did indeed come first.

    I'm pretty sure a chickens evolutionary parent would've been producing it too.
    There's no way it's parent would've given birth to a chicken sans egg only to have the chicken turn around and start laying them.

    The egg came first.
    The scientists are looking at birds (though possibly reptiles that evolved into birds).
    Yes it is a semantic debate, but none-the-less an egg that was laid but an almost-chicken we'll call Fred. The egg could be described as both a chicken egg (an egg containing a chicken) or a Fred egg and egg laid by a Fred. The chicken hatched from the Fred/Chicken egg and then spread it mutation to its children by breeding with Freds (our almost-chicken) and over time the Fred effectively died out (as the entire population now had the slight mutation that meant we would class it as a chicken).

    Now some would argue that the Fred being so close to a chicken could be in fact be called a chicken, but that is a cyclic argument as we then class all our Freds as chickens and then look at something the fred evolved from and go again (and again, and again, all the way back till we start calling reptiles chickens if you like).

    Egg came first.

    Dr Karl will be explaining/discussing this at 11am today on Triple J.

    The main thing to consider about these findings is.... no matter the out-come of the the reserch, both taste awesome fried!

    they havent discovered which came first, thats just the media playing it up, they just discovered the molecular compound that states the 'chicken' cannot enter the egg, but the 'chicken' can emerge from it. i suggest you read the research paper...

    According to a book I found in a drawer at a motel once...

    On the Sixth Day...

    24And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds." And it was so. 25

    Says nothing about God planting eggs to hatch...

    Now, we can focus our energies on the other great question about chickens... why they crossed the road.

    *BONG SFX from LOST*

      To get to the other side - it's already been answered...

      What the real question is, is why do scientists always waste time on crap like this when they could be working together to cure actual diseases...

        Not all scientists are that intelligent, some waste our time with flawed studies like this instead of going for gold.

          So much of the worst science gets done when "Going for gold."

          So many companies and labs that are trying to "cure" disease, are actually looking for a drug to sell. It doesn't matter if they understand how or why it works as long as it passes through the trials. Everyone is looking for a new penicillin but they just keep going in circles.

          It is when we understand basic science (like the function of OC-17) that we can actually make real progress. The scientists doing basic research are the ones that actually make progress and share their findings. The gold diggers are too worried about how much money they might make one day to contribute to the global knowledge base. They want patents not papers.

          Here is a good breakdown of how the story spread. based on a misrepresentation by one newspaper.

    This finding doesn't prove that the chicken came before the egg, as chicken ancestors most likely had this OC-17 protein ability as well.

      So the genetically unrelated genuine chicken egg carried the chicken's ancestor? That's like saying (in a nutshell) that the first mammal was live-born from a reptile, hence previous reptiles were live-born. As opposed tot he first mammal being an evolutionary "mutation" from the reptile and hatching from an ordinary reptile egg (again, in a nutshell, this is a much more gradual process :P)

    As a scientist with a degree in genetics it is heartening to see such robust and in many cases well informed scientific debate. Good job guys.

    As a few people have already pointed out Eggs in general came before chickens, but the first chicken would have come from a Bird that wasn't quite a chicken, so not a chicken egg.

    I wonder which came first thou: The game or the gamer?

      The game. In general, the gamer is a byproduct of the game. Gamers dont make games. Sure a gamer can aspire to become a game developer, but that's because they were inspired by the game.

      The first game developer (there's a debate on THIS as well) wasn't necessarily a gamer before he/they developed the first game.

    This is a flawed argument. There are no clear distinctions in biology, just a lot of attempts to group species and the odd blurred line. What defines the first chicken? The Archaeopteryx didn't just give birth to a chicken. So do we define the egg in question as a chicken egg or just "the egg"? The answer is simple there. If the egg is a chicken egg, then the chicken must have hatched prom a pre-chicken, the egg which this chicken grew in would have to have been formed without OC-17. Else, these scientists are suggesting that the chicken came first, but was born in some vastly different manner such as a live-birth or cell division (lol).

    My point is that this doesn't answer anything. Using logic we can say that the first chicken-egg laying chicken came before the chicken egg, and this first chicken was concieved in some less evolved manner. All this study has done is put some icing on the cake to prove any fools out there that actually think the chicken's ancestor had a complete chicken's reproductive system capable of conceiving a chicken, hence the genuine chicken egg gave birth to the genetically different pre-chicken.

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