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Are Chickens Dinosaurs? (What science says about this idea)


Chickens don’t tend to be the first thing that people envision in their minds when they hear about our prehistoric friends, the dinosaurs. But science has recently indicated that these two could be more closely related than anyone would have thought. So, are chickens, in fact, dinosaurs? 

Chickens are not dinosaurs but when compared to several other species, the collagen levels in dinosaurs were closer to that of chickens and ostriches than any others. 

There is a lot to get into when it comes to this subject. Many misconceptions and awkward wordings have made for some confusing bits of information regarding our chickens and their ancient cousins, so keep reading below to find out more about the real science behind our feathered friends and the dinosaurs. 

Are Chickens Related To Dinosaurs? 

There is genetic and scientific evidence that supports the idea of chickens being pretty closely related to dinosaurs, descendants from the theropod class.

As a matter of fact, we wouldn’t have the molecular data necessary to compare other species to the dinosaur if it weren’t for a few scientists forced with the decision of breaking a T-Rex femur in order to fly it via helicopter from where it was discovered.  

Upon researching the bone, they discovered there were remains of collagen DNA inside it, giving scientists the chance to compare that genetic sequence to that of other living species.

Scientists cross-referenced humans, chimps, chickens, ostriches, mice, alligators, and salmon (among 14 others) to that of the T-Rex collagen. It was shown that dinosaurs were more closely related to chickens and ostriches than any of the other species. 

Theropods are the closest prehistoric, genetic relation from dinosaurs to birds; having a large snout, big, sharp teeth and smaller brains. The velociraptor and T-Rex are both examples of this class of dinosaurs. 

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Are Chickens A Descendant Of The Tyrannosaurus Rex? 

Whether chickens are related to or descendant specifically from the T-Rex is not quite decided. Based on the amino acid sequence that was discovered in the T-Rex femur, we understand that dinosaurs are indeed more closely related to that of chickens than they are reptiles.

Because both birds and their dino ancestors shared the same avian-specific microchromosomes, scientists speculate that chickens are descendants of dinosaurs. 

Are Chickens Related To The Velociraptor? 

There has been a fair amount of research done comparing the chicken to the velociraptor, indicating that they very well could be distantly related.

There are many anthropological similarities as well as some fossil evidence to support these theories. Some scientists even believe that the velociraptor could have evolved into our modern-day chicken! 

Given the significant physical and even genetic similarities, it is pretty likely that these ancient creatures are a very distant relative to our feathered and egg-laying friends, the chicken. However, it isn’t really possible to say with 100% certainty that these two are truly related without more genetic material and scientific research. 

Are Chickens Prehistoric? 

Chickens themselves are not necessarily prehistoric, but there is evidence to prove that dinosaurs such as the archaeopteryx showed features like feathers, wings and flight.

The evolution of dinosaurs and this prehistoric species is truly a fascinating subject for so many science buffs out there. 

There have been decades of research delving into the investigation of birds and the evolution of their suspected ancestors, the dinosaurs.

The process to “bird-hood” was subtle but quite quick when comparing it to other phases in prehistoric evolution with other species. There is scientific evidence to support the idea that bird-like features such as feathers and short gliding capabilities happened quite some time before the actual evolution and creation of birds. 

Were Chickens Already There With Dinosaurs? 

Because chickens are not prehistoric creatures, it would have been impossible without a time machine for any to be roaming the earth at the same time as dinosaurs. However, it is appropriate to say that the chicken’s far distant ancestors were starting the process of several million year-long, bird-like evolution. 

We all know that birds are much smaller than their dino predecessors, but did you know that they look strikingly similar to dinosaur embryos? Over time, the archaeopteryx ancestor adapted physically to put their features to a newer and greater use.

Their smaller body and skull size with feathers and a more agile beak allowed for huge evolutionary changes to occur from a series of small evolutionary steps in only a short time. 

Fossil Discoveries In China

Through scientific research and evidence, it is apparent that the chicken itself wasn’t present during prehistoric times. On the other hand, there is clearly a history and wealth of knowledge showing that there certainly were bird-like dinosaurs living on earth at one point in time. 

In the 1990s, there was a boom of discovery in China, where several fossils were found to have some surprising physical features that scientists didn’t expect; FEATHERS! At that time, feathers were thought to be a specific and unique trait only to birds. However, this new discovery indicated that feathers had evolved in dinosaurs long before birds were ever thought to exist. 

Many paleontologists and other professionals discovered with new and sophisticated interpretations of fossils that dinosaurs didn’t evolve into birds in any kind of quick or streamlined manner. Rather, they had to simply adapt and evolve their avian features one by one over time.

While evolutionary development is never a speedy process, the transition from dinosaur to bird was relatively simple, making it difficult to map out obvious changes between the two species on a timeline. 

How Did The Dinosaur Become The Chicken We Know Today? 

Well, just like all evolutionary processes, it happened slowly over millions of years. As dinosaurs began adapting and evolving to their surroundings and changes with the food chain, you can see a transition from the chicken ancestor, the archaeopteryx, as it begins adopting its bird-like features. 

One of the most fascinating aspects of this species’ evolution is the dramatic change in size that it underwent. The original theropods were around 100-500 lbs and the modern-day chicken weighs less than 10 lbs, so how did we get to that? 

Well, it became quite apparent to many scientists and paleontologists that shrinking in size was essential for their evolution and survival. The diminishing size was noticed in their ancestors approximately 50 million years before any bird-like features were seen in the archaeopteryx. 

Shrinking in size was extremely strange at that time, as most dinosaurs were only getting bigger, marking the intense natural selection of species that was happening during this prehistoric era. While these bird-like creatures were getting smaller, gaining flight with their wings, they became more agile and increased their odds for survival. 

This change in physiology and size brought forth new habitat opportunities and ways of living for the chicken ancestors. 

Dinosaurs Are More Like Chickens Than Lizards 

Did you know that alligators also descend from a common ancestor with dinosaurs? That makes them more closely related to chickens than it does to any other type of lizard or reptile! The embryo of an alligator and the embryo of a chicken also share a lot of physical similarities, spurning more conversation regarding birds and their relation to dinosaurs. 

A biologist from Harvard University named Arkhat Abzhanov and several of his colleagues worked together to discover that the first birds ever discovered were nearly identical to that of the early velociraptor embryos. Essentially, some species of dinosaurs were just giant underdeveloped birds and early birds were just tiny dinosaurs. 

So, Are Chickens Dinosaurs? 

Really, it’s a little bit of yes and no. There is plenty of evidence through genetic research and physical skeletons to say that some dinosaurs are certainly the several million old ancestors to birds; chickens included. But are they dinosaurs? 

I suppose not technically, but if you want to compare them to their once prehistoric predecessors, you will certainly see several similarities between chickens and dinosaurs. 

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Allison Salonko

I'm a Veterinary Technician with 10+ years of experience in the field. I am using my passion for writing in between working with animals and spending time with my family.

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