You know how there is Ice Age because of a lot of Ice and Stone age because a lot of stone was used to make instruments. It is known that many of the cultures since disappeared are known today only by what they have left behind. Now we live in the Age of the Chicken.
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Here, it turns out that an ordinary domestic chicken can become an important indicator of human management for future archaeologists. The combined mass of 23 billion living chickens is greater than that of all the other birds on Earth.
“Chickens are an example of how we have changed the biosphere to serve our needs. It’s not only the mind-boggling numbers of chickens that will tell a tale of our times but their shape, genes, and chemistry,” said Carys Bennett, author of a study published in the “Royal Society Open Science.”
If future archaeologists truly find chicken bone fossils, they will likely conclude that these creatures were not created by nature.
The modern broiler chicken, with an average life until the slaughter of a scant five to nine weeks, by various estimates, has five times the mass of its ancestor. It has a genetic mutation that makes it eat insatiably so that it gains weight rapidly. It is subject to numerous bone ailments because it has been bred to grow so quickly. And because of its diet — heavy on grains and low on back yard seeds and bugs — its bones have a distinct chemical signature.
The large size of modern hens is no accident, the result of a 1948 supermarket competition “future chicken”. During that time, chicken farmers were asked to raise as many hens as possible, which could produce even faster.
The broiler is also completely dependent on and designed for an industrial system of meat production. It can only live supported by human technology. Eggs are artificially incubated and chicks grow in climate-controlled sheds of up to 50,000 chickens, the scientists write.
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Of course, archaeologists of the future won’t just find chicken bones. There will be plastics, and concrete and other so-called ichnofossils. There will be radiation signatures in the rocks from nuclear tests.
But the single most identifiable and significant biological remnant, these scientists argue, the lasting sign of how we changed the living world, will be the broiler chicken, in its numbers and strangeness.