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The broiler chicken as a signal of a human reconfigured biosphere

Bennett, Carys E; Thomas, Richard; Williams, Mark; Zalasiewicz, Jan; Edgeworth, Matt; Miller, Holly; Coles, Ben; Foster, Alison; Burton, Emily J; Marume, Upenyu

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Carys E Bennett

Richard Thomas

Mark Williams

Jan Zalasiewicz

Matt Edgeworth

Assistant Professor in Zooarchaeology

Ben Coles

Alison Foster

Emily J Burton

Upenyu Marume


© 2018 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. 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.


Bennett, C. E., Thomas, R., Williams, M., Zalasiewicz, J., Edgeworth, M., Miller, H., …Marume, U. (2018). The broiler chicken as a signal of a human reconfigured biosphere. Royal Society Open Science, 5(12), 1-11.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 8, 2018
Online Publication Date Dec 12, 2018
Publication Date Dec 1, 2018
Deposit Date Jan 29, 2019
Publicly Available Date Jan 29, 2019
Journal Royal Society Open Science
Electronic ISSN 2054-5703
Publisher The Royal Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Issue 12
Pages 1-11
Series ISSN 2054-5703
Public URL
Publisher URL


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