of the most puzzling and famous life questions has stumped people for
generations. It's the question of which came first: the chicken or
the egg? In order for there to be an egg, a chicken would have
had to lay it. In order for there to be a chicken, it would have had
to hatch from an egg. It seems as though either answer could be the
correct answer; until
Colin Freeman from Sheffield University along with colleagues from
Warwick University have figured it all out. Their research project
originally aimed to figure out how animals make eggshells because
it's an extraordinarily strong yet lightweight material that
no human has been able to replicate, and the researchers hoped to
learn how to develop a manmade equivalent by learning about the way
animals make eggshells.
were chosen as their test subjects simply because the protein was
easy to study. The study began when Freeman and his colleagues used
the UK Science Research Council's super-computer called HECToR (High
End Computing Terascale Resource), which is based in Edinburgh. The
"ingredients" used to make eggshells were programmed into
HECToR, and that was it. The computer was left to produce results on
its own, and it took weeks for HECToR to figure out how chickens make
HECToR finally arrived at a conclusion, the researchers were stunned
when they realized that they had solved the age
old question. After years and years of debate, it was finally
determined that the chicken
came before the egg.
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,"
they found was a protein, called ovocledidin-17 (OC-17), that exists
only in a chicken's ovaries and is vital to eggshell formation in
chickens. The protein acts as an ongoing builder that pieces
microscopic parts of the shell together by converting calcium
carbonate into calcite crystals. The shell would not exist without
this protein, which only exists in chickens, so the end result is
that the chicken came first.
was discovered before this research project, but HECToR made
it easier for the researchers to observe the process "in
microscopic detail," thus understand the proteins significance
in the eggshell-making procedure.
what does this mean for those who always thought the egg came first?
Freeman and his colleagues referred to some theories that suggest
that chickens' "ancestors evolved to create hard eggs around the
time of the dinosaurs."
addition to answering the question
that has burdened the human race for ages, the results of
this study could be advantageous in the medical field since human
bones and teeth are made in a similar way as eggshells. This could
lead to a better understanding of how to rebuild human bones. Also,
the study could help figure out how crystal structures can be
made and destroyed (since the eggshells are made up of microscopic
crystals). Learning how this can be done could lead to the
elimination of limescale crystals on pipes and kettles.