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An eggsact science

The chicken-egg query has been resolved. But to know whether opinions come before facts, read on

india Updated: Jul 18, 2010 21:31 IST
Hindustan Times

The issue of whether the chicken came before the egg or the egg came before the chicken has finally been resolved. As usual, it's not the scraggly beards from philosophy departments who answered that tough question but scientists who prefer to rely on facts rather than theories. In a recent study in Britain, a team of labcoat-wallas pointed to the origin of the species Gallus gallus domesticus: a protein called ovocleidin-17 whose function is to help in the formation of the chicken egg's hard shell. This essential ingredient, it turns out, can be formed only inside a chicken.

So to make ovocleidin-17 that makes a chicken egg, you'll first need a chicken.

So is this an open and shut case now? Or is it a shut and open case? Some other eggheads insist that for the first chicken to have come about in this world, there must have been pre-existing ovocleidin-17, the stuff that eggs are made of and thereby the Adam among chicken eggs. So even if it was there in gloop form, before the chicken there was the chicken egg and the latest report confirms that even while coming to the wrong conclusion.

But the chicken'n'egg question itself didn't really ask the question 'correctly', which should be: did the chicken come first or the chicken egg come first? The descriptor for the egg is crucial because different birds use different kinds of proteins to produce eggs. And the chicken egg-forming ovocleidin's evolutionary pattern wasn't timed with the evolution of eggs in general, but it actually developed from existing proteins to form eggs before birds evolved from reptiles. So the real answer to, 'Did the chicken come first or the egg come first?' is actually, neither. The dinos came first.

First Published: Jul 18, 2010 21:29 IST