Chickens are dinosaurs, or aren’t they? These sorts of assertions have been popping up frequently recently, and I must admit that I wasn’t buying most of them. These claims all seemed too good to be true to me. And what exactly was the truth?
Truth be told, I hadn’t given much consideration to the link between dinosaurs and chickens. So, I made up my mind to find out the truth. Here is what I found.
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T. rex is just a giant chicken
The most basic comparison shows us that T. rex had “arms” and chickens have wings. The jaws of the T. rex were huge and filled with sharp teeth. Beaks are a characteristic feature of chickens. Therefore, obviously, not. There can be no doubt that T. rex was not a hen.
Chickens are descended from T. rex
Should we assume they share any ancestry with T. rex? No, in a nutshell. T. rex and other tyrannosaurs, along with chickens and all other birds, are all categorized as part of the suborder Theropoda. Dinosaurs with three toes on each foot and hollow bones are all part of the larger and more varied group known as theropods.
Within the theropod family tree, the clade coelurosauria includes not only birds and tyrannosaurs but also all other living birds. Feathers are a characteristic shared by all coelurosaurs. In fact, scientists believe that all tyrannosaurs sported feathers at some point in their lives, as feathers have been discovered in two different species. There are several subgroups within the coelurosauria, such as the Tyrannosauroidea, which contains T. rex and his relatives, and the Maniraptoriformes, which contains chickens and all other birds.
These two groups diverged in the Jurassic era, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. It turns out that T. rex wasn’t grandpaw to chickens; instead, he was more like a shirt-tail relative. Imagine a family reunion where birds and tyrannosaurs are attending, but sitting at opposite ends of the table.
Chickens are dinosaurs
Chickens are dinosaurs, or aren’t they? Scientists in the fields of evolutionary biology and paleontology have long since reached a consensus on the direct ancestry of birds and dinosaurs. Chickens are also classified as birds. Scientists now agree that birds are not ancient reptiles that evolved into birds, but rather are dinosaurs themselves.
Scientists are fairly certain that a large asteroid or comet, perhaps ten miles wide, smashed into the Gulf of Mexico around 66 million years ago, causing a global catastrophe. Over three-quarters of Earth’s species—including many insects, mammals, fish, plants, and lizards—were suddenly extinguished during a geological period called the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event.
T. rex and the rest of the dinosaurs went extinct, along with almost every other large animal, leaving only a handful of small therapods native to the southern continents, which we now know as birds. Those few animals and birds that managed to survive eventually dispersed across the globe and gave rise to the modern varieties we see today. Chickens are domesticated descendants of an Asian wild fowl called the red junglefowl.
Chickens are dinosaurs, or aren’t they? Therefore, that is the case. If you refer to your chickens as “little dinosaurs” in the future, you will be entirely accurate in doing so. It’s a bit much to compare your aggressive rooster to a T. rex, though.