It’s Official: The Chicken Came Before the Egg

A team of British researchers say they’ve worked out how eggshells are produced. It appears to confirm that the chicken did indeed come first.

The solution lies in a chicken protein named ovocledidin-17 (OC-17) which is found in the hard layer of the shell.

A team led by Mark Rodger and David Quigley have published a paper in chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie detailing their work with metadynamics, a computing tool which analyzes and simulates the way molecules interact.

They spent around 1,000 hours on HECToR (High End Computing Terascale Resources), a British supercomputer available for academic and industrial research.

Using the tool they were able to show that two lops on the OC-17 protein clamp onto calcium carbonate particles and prompt the calcium carbonate to form crystallites which then continue to grow into crystal. Once the crystals can grow on their own, the protein drops away and latches on to other calcium carbonate particles and starts the process over again. This works so efficiently that there are enough crystals to form an eggshell within a day.

The Toronto Star has some interesting background on previous attempts to solve the chicken and egg conundrum, my favorite being the researcher who mailed one of each from Massachusetts to Manhattan. The chicken came first.

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10 Responses to It’s Official: The Chicken Came Before the Egg

  1. Not to burst your bubble on this, but here's a great breakdown of why the "chicken before egg" assumption is a misunderstanding of the study:

    "You simply can't make the conclusion the reporter was making here. The species ancestral to Gallus gallus laid eggs, the last common ancestor of all birds laid eggs, the reptiles that preceded the birds laid eggs…the appearance of egg laying was not coincident with the evolution of ovocleidin. The first chicken that acquired the protein we call ovocleidin now by mutation of a prior protein also hatched from an egg."

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/07/chicke

  2. Not to burst your bubble on this, but here's a great breakdown of why the "chicken before egg" assumption is a misunderstanding of the study:

    "You simply can't make the conclusion the reporter was making here. The species ancestral to Gallus gallus laid eggs, the last common ancestor of all birds laid eggs, the reptiles that preceded the birds laid eggs…the appearance of egg laying was not coincident with the evolution of ovocleidin. The first chicken that acquired the protein we call ovocleidin now by mutation of a prior protein also hatched from an egg."

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/07/chicke

  3. I guess what they say is the Chicken cells started forming before the Chicken Egg formed around the Chicken Mix.

  4. I guess what they say is the Chicken cells started forming before the Chicken Egg formed around the Chicken Mix.

  5. As others have already pointed out, if we don't care what kind of egg then it becomes obvious that the egg preceded the chicken. Instead, let's go on the assumption that the question is "What came first, the chicken or the *chicken* egg."

    With this question, there are two problems.

    The first is definitional: is a chicken egg so defined because a chicken laid it, or because a chicken will be born from it? The former implies the chicken came first. The latter implies the chicken egg is the winner.

    The second is a gradient problem: where is the dividing line between a chicken and an almost-chicken? Would we recognize it? You have to decide on a strict definition of speciation before you can answer this.

  6. As others have already pointed out, if we don’t care what kind of egg then it becomes obvious that the egg preceded the chicken. Instead, let’s go on the assumption that the question is “What came first, the chicken or the *chicken* egg.”

    With this question, there are two problems.

    The first is definitional: is a chicken egg so defined because a chicken laid it, or because a chicken will be born from it? The former implies the chicken came first. The latter implies the chicken egg is the winner.

    The second is a gradient problem: where is the dividing line between a chicken and an almost-chicken? Would we recognize it? You have to decide on a strict definition of speciation before you can answer this.