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The Egg Makes Its Move In A New Version Of Which Came First: The Chicken Or the Egg?

Monday, February 11, 2013 - 12:40 PM

Which came first? I just bumped into a new take on this old puzzler.

Robert Krulwich/NPR

Everybody knows you need a chicken to lay an egg. Everybody knows you need an egg to produce a chicken. What nobody knows is how the cycle started. Once upon a time, did Heaven create a first-of-its-kind egg, or a first-of-its-kind chicken? (Or to put the question in a more sciencey way, did a new, different egg make a sudden appearance? Or did it start with new and different chicken?)

Robert Krulwich/NPR


This, of course, is a slippery question. But in this new video from AsapSCIENCE, instead of getting all philosophical, Mitchell Moffit gets cleverly technical.

He asks, "Is a chicken egg one laid by a chicken or only one that simply contains a chicken?"

Yes, I had to read this a few times to make sense of it. What he's saying is, a long, long, time ago, an animal looking a lot like a chicken (It was genetically very, very close, but not quite there; we'll call it a "proto-chicken.") laid an egg. An animal resembling rooster had fertilized that egg, but when dad's genes and mom's genes fused, they combined in a new way, creating a mutation that accidently made the baby different from its parents. While it would take thousands of years and generations to notice the difference, that egg was different enough to become the pioneer of a new species, an animal we now call ... A Chicken. So if we look at that first egg, created by accident from two almost-chickens — couldn't we say it all started with a new and different egg?

So it's the egg! The egg came first? No?

Now you are ready to watch the video ...



AsapSCIENCE is the brainchild of Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown, two former University of Guelph classmates from Ontario who regularly produce three minute videos answering questions that normal people with no science training ask themselves while staring out windows on long train trips.You can find their YouTube channel here.


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Comments [2]

Tim White from Salishia

Q: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
A: The rooster.

Dec. 14 2015 05:37 AM

I also believe the egg came first, but I arrived at my conclusion from this perspective. It's a trick question! As I understand it the original question is, "which came first, the chicken or the egg?" not "which came first the chicken or the chicken egg?". In the second question there is no doubt a chicken egg is referred to since "chicken egg" is part of the question. In the first question however, you only assume it's a chicken egg because three words earlier you read the word "chicken" so your mind is preconditioned to think the question is referring to the "chicken egg". I believe nature has been using the egg format for millions of years before the modern chicken ever made the scene. Dinosaurs, alligators, crocodiles, turtles all laid eggs, all much older than the chicken, I think. So, yes the egg came first. However if "chicken egg" is part of the question then the chicken, or proto-chicken like the video suggests, would have had to come first and through mutation, genetic drift?, the modern chicken has finally arrived on our dinner plates. But then, why not broaden the question and ask, "Which came first, the female or the egg?" or should it be "female egg"?.

Feb. 23 2013 06:28 AM

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