The most recent data shows there are approximately 7 billion people on the planet Earth. When you combine this number with the increasing power of the technology we develop, it results in something that geologists call the “Anthropocene.” Geologists argue that this era—which began in the 1950s—describes how humanity’s influence is so powerful that we are actually having a direct and significant impact on the geological record; and that this impact is as distinct as the last Ice Age.
A team of researchers compiled of scientists from all over the United Kingdom (and one from South Africa), however, make a different argument. They contest that the broiler chicken may be a more accurate indicator of the influence of this Anthropocene than the presence of humans. The research now suggests that the broiler chicken—which is, by far, the most populous bird on Earth—may be the most striking evidence of this new epoch.
To put this into perspective, there are approximately 23 billion broiler chickens on the planet and the next most populous bird is the red-billed quelea, whose population rings in at around 1.5 billion.
Yes, there are three times as many broiler chickens than humans. As a matter of fact, there are so many of these birds that their total body mass is greater than that of all other birds combined! But here is the kicker: despite the sheer amalgam of these birds, they are no longer anywhere near their initial native ecological state.
You see, these birds are actually unable to survive and reproduce in the wild. This species of chicken is bred to eat—non-stop—so that it can grow very quickly to its desired size in 5 to 9 weeks. During its growth, the meat outgrows its organs, and that makes it impossible for the chicken to survive into adulthood. Then we cook and eat these chickens and discard their bones.
And scientists say that over time these bones will become fossilized and they are so prolific that if life on Earth does not survive the next extinction event, Earth’s next dominant life form will find more chicken bones than human bones to discern that the broiler chicken will be the symbol of the Anthropocene!
The results of this study have been published in the journal Royal Society Open Science