Broiler chickens: The defining species of the Anthropocene?

Angus, Ian
Date Written:  2019-03-19
Publisher:  Climate and Capitalism
Year Published:  2019
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23549

Broiler chickens may be distinct and ubiquitous enough as a human-modified species that their fossil record could justify calling our era the Anthropocene.



An important new paper, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science (RSOS), makes a convincing case that modern broiler chickens are a "distinct and characteristic new morphospecies ….[that] symbolizes the unprecedented human reconfiguration of the Earth’s biosphere"....

At any given time, there are some 22.7 billion domesticated chickens on Earth, 20 times more than any wild bird species. The total biomass of domesticated poultry, mostly chickens, is three times the biomass of all wild birds combined. Astonishing as those figures are, they substantially understate the overwhelming presence of chickens in the biosphere because, unlike wild birds, chickens live only five to seven weeks from hatching to slaughter, so many times 22.7 billion pass through the vast maw of industrial agriculture each year....

Writing in The Conversation, Bennett and colleagues describe what they found when they compared modern chicken bones to bones from the past: “Modern broiler chickens are radically different — they have a supersized skeleton, distinct bone chemistry reflecting the homogeneity of their diet and significantly reduced genetic diversity.”[

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