Reading the bones
Some stories bear repeating. This one’s a nightmarish scenario worthy of the direst Sci-Fi blockbuster: a planet’s species controlled from birth in machine technologies, enduring rapid growth beyond natural limits, shunted to mass-engineered death for meat harvesting. Flash forward to a distant future: the hidden enslavers have gone; only countless bones, in vast graves scattered across the planet, tell that the enslaved creatures were ever there. Fantasy? Maybe not so much — if you’re one of the 23 billion chickens alive at this moment. ‘Dominant species’ might be a stretch, but maybe in the eyes of the mythical alien archaeologists – landing on Earth after humans have gone, shaking tentacled heads at the wonders in the rocks – chicken bones will dominate their reconstructions of what ‘on Earth’ went on here.
Researchers have “compared the bones of the modern meat chicken to the bones of their ancestors dating back to Roman times. Modern broiler chickens are radically different” – super-sized skeleton, distinct bone chemistry, reduced genetic diversity. Their “distinctive bones will undoubtedly become fossilised markers … preserved in the rock record as symbols of how our planet and its biosphere has changed from its pre-human state to one dominated by humans and our domesticated animals.”