Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Distinction of Extinction - Did T-Rex Become a Chicken?

                                                                      Photo By Nancy Shobe, Shobe Biz Communications

Are chickens and dinosaurs related?

Research conducted by Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center (2007) seemed to help prove what paleontologists have long thought: that common birds evolved from dinosaurs. Focus Online, an on-line news source from Harvard's Medical, Dental, and Public Health Schools, reported  in 2007 that research showed that sequencing from tiny pieces of collagen from Tyrannosauras Rex, seven proteins in all, matched the sequencing of the amino acids in the collagen of the common-day chickens.

But, as we all know, scientific studies are never conclusive. The great mystery continues, this evolution of the bird. Gareth Duw Davies for PBS gave a detailed and interesting story about the evolution of the bird. And, Science Daily reported in 2010, three years after the Harvard research, that birds and dinosaurs may have had some common ancestors but each seem to have evolved on their own path.

So, do or I don't I have a Jurassic Park in my backyard?

At one point in my career, I worked for a small paleontological museum, the Raymond M. Alf Museum, on the campus of The Webb Schools. It hosts the world's largest collection of fossil footprints. I would spend hours talking to the paleontologist/curator about the collections and the Museum's paleontological finds on its digs. A friend of mine even bought me a book about dinosaurs to help further my knowledge.

What I learned is that the intricacies of evolution probably will never be known. It's the head-banging curiosity of "making connections" that's so intriguing.

(During one of our many conversations, The Alf Museum curator told me that, at that time, there was conjecture that dinosaurs didn't make any noise. "No way," I said, "Tell that to Hollywood."  And, recent research highlighted in List Verse shows that T-Rex probably had some feathers.)

One of the things that had the greatest personal impact on me while I was working at the Alf Museum had nothing directly to do with dinosaurs. It was a huge spiral in one of its halls that symbolized the evolution of time. Starting from the ground, it wound and wound up toward the ceiling, naming different evolutionary time periods. It was only until the last foot or so that the word "Man" appeared. In comparison to the Universe, man hadn't been around very long.

I was going through a rough patch at the time and something about that spiral comforted me. My problems at the moment were overwhelming, all consuming. But, when compared with the timeline of the universe, they were an infinitesimal speck. Everything I was going through wasn't that important.

Years ago, a writer friend of mine said she wrote a journal of her years---meaning she allotted a couple of pages in a journal to every year of her life and then wrote down what she could remember about each year. She said she started to see patterns, Venn diagrams, in her life that helped her to write her stories. Connecting the dots of her own evolution helped her to better understand her life story. Perhaps it is by stepping back, observing and being curious about one's own life's trends, and not falling into the quagmire of thinking that our problems (or we) are ALL so important, that we as people evolve. 

Yesterday, I read an article in the Smithsonian Magazine about a new kind of travel called Evotravel, a travel trend to places where you can find evidence of evolution. Standing in the coop this morning, feeding the chickens sunflower seeds, I couldn't help but think I didn't have to travel far to see evolution. Just watching the chickens' antics--their wings flapping, their preening, their squawking--lessened my burdens, even if I never will truly know their ancestral history.


  1. I too an a Chicken Woman... but I can't find your "follow" button!

  2. Hi, Kathy. I'm glad you're a chicken woman, too! You can follow Chicken Women via email or RSS feed, which is at the top of my blog on the right. Or, you can click on the orange B at the very top left-hand of the screen when you are in Chicken Women and add Chicken Women to your reading list (if you are a member of Google's blogger). Thanks for asking how you can follow. Hope you're having fun with your chickens.