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Yes it's an extremely old question that's been around for as long as I can remember. The sort of question with no right or wrong answer ... until now!
British researchers operating out of Sheffield and Warwick Universities have finally cracked the case, suggesting that the formation of eggs is only possible becuase of a protein found in the chicken's ovaries. Meaning, the chicken MUST have come first.
Dr Colin Freeman, from Sheffield University had this to say:
It had long been suspected that the egg came first, but now we have the scientific evidence that shows, in fact, the chicken came first.
The protein identified by the scientists, OC-17 (ovocledidin 17), is crucial in controlling the development of the shell around the egg. Using a supercomputer called HECToR based in Edinburgh, the scientists were able to zoom in on an egg's formation and gain new insights into the way it was developed. It showed that the OC-17 protein was crucial to the crystallisation process of the egg and gave scientists the answer they've been looking for for generations.
Professor John Harding, also of Sheffield University, had this to add:
Understanding how chickens make shells is fascinating, but it could also give us ideas for designing new materials
So next time someone smugly asks you that question, give them the answer and then smile smugly. Trust me, it's a nice feeling!
Also I'd like to add a little well done to myself for resisting the urge to a) fill this full of puns and b) make some terrible Fresh Egg joke. See, I'm a serious journalist!