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The broiler chicken as a signal of a human reconfigured biosphere

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journal contribution
posted on 2019-05-24, 14:09 authored by C Bennett, R Thomas, M Williams, J Zalasiewicz, M Edgeworth, H Miller, B Coles, A Foster, E Burton, U Marume
Changing patterns of human resource use and food consumption have profoundly impacted the Earth's biosphere. Until now, no individual taxa have been suggested as distinct and characteristic new morphospecies representing this change. Here we show that the domestic broiler chicken is one such potential marker. Human-directed changes in breeding, diet and farming practices demonstrate at least a doubling in body size from the late medieval period to the present in domesticated chickens, and an up to fivefold increase in body mass since the mid-twentieth century. Moreover, the skeletal morphology, pathology, bone geochemistry and genetics of modern broilers are demonstrably different to those of their ancestors. Physical and numerical changes to chickens in the second half of the twentieth century, i.e. during the putative Anthropocene Epoch, have been the most dramatic, with large increases in individual bird growth rate and population sizes. Broiler chickens, now unable to survive without human intervention, have a combined mass exceeding that of all other birds on Earth; this novel morphotype symbolizes the unprecedented human reconfiguration of the Earth's biosphere.

Funding

R.T., A.F. and H.M. would like to acknowledge the financial support of the AHRC as part of the ‘Cultural and Scientific Perceptions of Human-Chicken Interactions’ project (grant ref. no.: AH/L006979/1).

History

Citation

Royal Society Open Science, 2018, 5:180325

Author affiliation

/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, ARTS AND HUMANITIES/School of Archaeology and Ancient History/Core Staff

Version

  • VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

Royal Society Open Science

Publisher

Royal Society, The, with Royal Society of Chemistry

issn

2054-5703

Acceptance date

2018-11-08

Copyright date

2018

Available date

2019-05-24

Publisher version

https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsos.180325

Notes

Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.4305458

Language

en

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