Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Carnivorous Chickens

Credit: Photo is by canong2fan at Flickr.
One night earlier this month I was mumbling in my sleep to such an extent that it woke Marj. I was making such a racket, apparently, that she was afraid I was having a heart attack. I was also flailing my arms and hands in the air, seemingly trying to ward off attacks from an intruder that only I was aware of.

After prodding me until I was partially awake, Marj asked me what my problem was. I replied sleepily, “Hmmm? Oh, nothing.”

I immediately started dozing off back to sleep. But before I did, I roused myself just enough to mutter, “Oh, now I remember. I was dreaming about carnivorous chickens.”

Whereupon, I promptly passed out again, probably leaving Marj a bit bemused and chuckling to herself, wondering what the hell I had been dreaming.

I remembered the dream the next day. There was no doubt that I had been fighting off giant, carnivorous chickens—Moas, maybe (yeah, I know they were herbivores, but let's just pretend otherwise)—in my sleep. I could remember that they were going after my face with their bills. But I didn’t spend much time thinking about it or trying to interpret the meaning of the dream.

A week or so later, a serendipitous Google search for “carnivorous chicken” turned up an article from Scientific American with the following eye-catching title: Was T. Rex Really King of the Lizards—or Just a Big, Carnivorous Chicken? To summarize the major finding of the paper:
Scientists extracted collagen from the femur of a 68-million-year-old T. rex and found that its protein sequences were most similar to those of chickens, among modern animals.
I guess there was a good reason why I was talking to myself and flailing my arms and hands in the air. Those chickens, or whatever they were, might have been even bigger than I imagined. One thing is certain: I'll never again look at a chicken without being reminded of that dream!

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