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Has there been any serious scientific inquiries into answering this age old question?

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closed as not constructive by Mad Scientist Apr 5 '12 at 18:55

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-1 as the attempts at answers show this question needs to be much more constrained to be answerable. –  KennyPeanuts Mar 12 '12 at 22:51
    
Perhaps the question can be better worded as: "Are there any scientific inquiries to the Chicken or the Egg question?" –  bobthejoe Mar 13 '12 at 7:35
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This question is invalid but it's such a known question that it's worth putting forth, if only to give an opportunity to point out why it's invalid. –  Hermann Ingjaldsson Apr 5 '12 at 11:52
    
This question is more a philosophical question. The chicken or egg dilemma is not really framed in the proper way according to our understanding of biology today, it's more than 2000 years old. –  Mad Scientist Apr 5 '12 at 18:57
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4 Answers 4

Dunno about any serious scientific inquiries into the answer but I always thought the answer is egg. At some point the modern chicken has come into being as the progeny of two pre-modern chickens, however it had to be an egg before it could be a chicken and its parents couldn't have been modern chickens.

However, all that presupposes that you can draw a line in the evolutionary history of the modern (extant) chicken and say this is modern and what goes before is not. I dunno if that really can be done.

Edit: came across this guardian article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2006/may/26/uknews

"Whether chicken eggs preceded chickens hinges on the nature of chicken eggs," said panel member and philosopher of science David Papineau at King's College London.

"I would argue it's 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. By this reasoning, the first chicken did indeed come from a chicken egg, even though that egg didn't come from chickens."

And from Prof. Brookfield of the University of Nottingham:

The first chicken must have differed from its parents by some genetic change, perhaps a very subtle one, but one which caused this bird to be the first ever to fulfil our criteria for truly being a chicken; Thus the living organism inside the eggshell would have had the same DNA as the chicken that it would develop into, and thus would itself be a member of the species of chicken

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Evolution does not happen over the course of a generation. You are confounding evolution of a species with mutations of a single individual. –  nico Mar 12 '12 at 19:40
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That's why I wrote I don't think its possible to draw a line in the evolutionary history and say this is an extant version of a chicken and the previous generation is not. –  niallhaslam Mar 13 '12 at 12:13
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Most theories about origin of life says that unicellular organisms was first and multicellularity (like chicken) evolve much later, so in that meaning egg (single cell)* was first. Also, almost all chicken ancestors lays eggs (primitive birds, non-avian reptiles, amphibians, fishes and so on...) so eggs existed much earlier than chickens.

*in the meaning of zygote. The development of chicken embryo starts in hen's oviducts, so it's not a single cell at the moment when hen lays it (Gilbert, 2000).

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@Hermann_Ingjaldsson Thanks, I've fixed it. Is it better now? –  Marta Cz-C Apr 6 '12 at 14:54
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The question makes the false assumption that chicken and eggs are different life forms.
A life form at stage x is not a different life form than that very life form at stage y.
You might as well ask of which came first, a 7 year old kid or an 8 year old kid.

But they are the same thing and therefore this question is invalid.

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This is a classic case of "it depends on the context."

  • The Egg: As Marta Cz-C points out, the amniotic eggs that chickens lay were inherited virtually unmodified from their theropod dinosaur ancestors. So when considering the type of eggs, the egg came first.
  • The Chicken: From a systematic perspective, you must first have an animal that you would call a chicken before it can lay a "chicken" egg. So considering the animal, the chicken.
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