Eugene McCarthy #crackpot macroevolution.net

Another fish with a birdlike head (see image below) was reported by Gaston Carlet (1879), a member of the French Faculty of Medicine and a professor in the School of Medicine at Grenoble. This specimen, however, had a body like that of a trout instead of a carp. It was found in a lake in the upper Isère Valley (France) at an altitude of 2,000 meters. Carlet (p. 160) mentions that the fishermen who caught this specimen insisted that they had caught others like it in the past and that it must therefore "represent a new species." He also states (p. 157) that the lower jaw (mâchoire inférieure) was like that of any other trout, only it was slightly shorter than the usual given the size of the fish. Note that what appears to be the upper portion of a bird beak is visible in Carlet’s illustration.‡ Given the locale where the specimen was collected, Oncorhynchus mykiss, the rainbow trout, would likely have been the specific fish in question.

‡ It can be noted that in certain crosses, hybrids have been reported as having the upper mandible of one of their parents combined with a lower mandible like that of their other parent. Such, for example, is the case with certain alleged chicken-duck hybrids who, reportedly, have the upper bill of a chicken combined with the lower bill of the duck. A great shortening of the upper mandible in comparison with the lower is often seen in horse-cow hybrids. The same was reported for an alleged duck-cat hybrid that supposedly had a upper jaw like a cat and a lower one like a duck.
imageimageimageLeft: trout with a birdlike head (source: Carlet 1879); center: abnormal trout (source: Yarrell 1841, p. 108); right: ordinary trout for comparison.

Eugene McCarthy #crackpot macroevolution.net

The extant giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus) is widespread in South America.⁵ Compare Priodontes (Figure 9.1a) with a typical reconstruction of the Cretaceous ankylosaur, Nodosaurus (Figure 9.1b). VIEW ADDITIONAL PICTURE OF PRIODONTES Allowing for the vagaries of reconstructing the appearance of an organism from fossils, Nodosaurus appears quite similar to Priodontes. However, accepted theory would, almost certainly, account for the observed similarity between ankylosaurs and the giant armadillo, not in terms of genetic relationship, but by referring to "gradual adaptation to similar environments." But, if armadillos started evolving from a "small, primitive, generalized" placental mammal after ankylosaurs died out, this process of "adaptation" must have been rapid indeed. The ancestors of Priodontes can be traced through the fossil record all the way back to the Paleocene,⁶ immediately after the ankylosaurs are said to have gone extinct.

A "giant" armadillo (Priodontes) is not even quite as large as the smallest known ankylosaur (Struthiosaurus). But much larger armadillos (glyptodonts), now extinct, survived long enough to be hunted by the pre-Columbian peoples of South America only a few thousand years ago.⁷ Glyptodonts the size of a small car survived into the late Pleistocene (e.g., Glyptodon). Such animals were about the size of Ankylosaurus itself, the largest of the ankylosaurs (the Pleistocene ended only about 10,000 years ago). VIEW A PICTURE OF A GLYTODONT Like certain ankylosaurs, some of these giant armadillos had tail clubs. In both ankylosaurs and armadillos, these clubs could be armed with long, bony spikes.⁸

These observations suggest that paleontologists have created an artificial distinction by classifying Mesozoic "ankylosaurs" as reptiles and post-Mesozoic armadillos as mammals. Given available evidence, and given stabilization theory's assumption that new types of organisms typically arise from precursor forms similar to themselves, the obvious conclusion seems to be that the various forms described as armadillos of the "Age of Mammals" (the Cenozoic Era) are descended from the various forms described as ankylosaurs of the "Age of Reptiles" (the Mesozoic Era).

Eugene McCarthy #crackpot #conspiracy #dunning-kruger macroevolution.net

Sheep-pig Hybrids

imageA sheep-pig hybrid? - As shown in a BBC article


And so if, as you recently told me, a lamb with a pig’s head was born, then it is because a boar mated with a sheep.

—Polydore Vergil
Dialogues on Prodigies, III, xxvi*

Caution: This disparate cross needs further confirmation, particularly from controlled breeding experiments.

It’s well documented that sheep and pigs sometimes will mate (videos >>). Indeed, even the ancient Akkadians knew that pigs and sheep do sometimes engage in such activities (Freedman 2017, p. 6). It’s a common barnyard occurrence. And text-mining of old newspapers shows that hybrids occur as well, as indicated, for example, in the reports at right.

At one time, unusual births such as pig-sheep hybrids were regularly reported in newspapers as “freaks of nature,” an English translation of the older term lusus naturae. But at about the time of the first world war, a movement arose to suppress freak shows and news reports about such creatures as well. It was distasteful and offensive, even cruel, opponents argued, to put such things before the public. The movement was successful and after the twenties, freaks rarely came before the public eye. As a result, it has been forgotten even by biologists that strange hybrids do occur. This societally enforced ignorance results in people interpreting animals that look like sheep-pig hybrids, such as the animal pictured above, as a wooly breed of pig.

For example, in 2010 stories about woolly sheep-like pigs and sheep-pig hybrids surfaced on the internet because a zoo in the UK (Tropical Wings Zoo, South Woodham Ferrers, Essex) announced that it had imported rare “Mangalitza” pigs and that they planned to breed them. Many people thought they were sheep-pig hybrids. But a BBC story assured the public that the Mangalitza was only a breed of pig:

An extremely rare breed of curly coated pig is to be bred for the first time at a zoo in Essex.

The three Mangalitza pigs, which bear a striking resemblance to sheep, arrived at the Tropical Wings Zoo in South Woodham Ferrers, just before Easter as part of a programme to save the breed.

“At first sight people perhaps think they are sheep” said education co-ordinator Denise Cox.

“It’s not until they turn around and you see their faces and snouts that you realise they are in fact pigs.”

The breed is thought to be native to Austria and Hungary.

But how did this breed of pig obtain a fleece like a sheep’s? It seems it would take some very clever breeding to start with a near naked, bristly pig and somehow select for a dense sheep-like coat of hair. And it seems no genetic study of these “pigs” has been made. After seeing this story, a Spanish geneticist whose former lab sequenced the genomes of some Mangalitza pigs said that, although the results of the study had been compared to other breeds of pig, he did not think any comparison had been made to sheep. So it seems that it has not been shown that Mangalitzas are not sheep-pig hybrids, although it’s clear from comments on the various stories around the internet that many people think they are.

The BBC subsequently published two brief stories on “Mangalitza pigs” (in these more recent articles, by the way, they use the spelling “Mangalica”).

One of these articles, by BBC World Service broadcast journalist Lucy Hooker, is about efforts to save the breed. In that article she comments that

To the uninitiated it is a sheep-pig. In reality it is the Mangalica, a comical but appealing breed that is taking the food industry by storm.

What this comment fails to recognize is that it is well known that many breeds of domestic animals were originally produced from hybrid crosses. I discuss this fact at length, among other places, in my reference work on hybridization in birds (Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, Oxford University Press, 2006) and elsewhere on this website. So really, it’s entirely possible that these pigs are not only a breed, but also of hybrid origin. The two are by no means mutually exclusive, as Ms. Hooker seems to suggest.

Since this is an old breed, which has apparently existed for centuries, its origin seems to be unknown. To determine the nature of that origin, it will be necessary to carry out investigations. One obvious way of gaining information about whether these animals might be sheep-pig hybrids is genetic analysis, as mentioned above. Another is experimental mating to see whether such hybrids can be produced. It is even conceivable that breeding records survive describing how the breed was produced (as is the case with many domestic breeds derived from hybrid crosses). Certainly, there are reports about sheep-pig hybrids being produced in Mexico (see below).

But the BBC’s implication that only the uninformed would suppose that these animals might be sheep-pig hybrids (i.e., “To the uninitiated it is a sheep-pig.”) seems premature. I am a geneticist and I know about hybrids, and yet I think they probably are hybrids of that sort. Moreover, I gently object to Ms. Hooker’s statement. It treats the unknown as known and therefore tends to dampen the spirit of investigation.

The other article, which is very short, was written by Tim Muffet, a reporter for BBC Breakfast. It’s really just a bit of text to accompany a video showing how these pigs are being used to restore heath land. From the standpoint of the sheep-pig question, this video is of interest primarily because it demonstrates beyond doubt that animals, such as the one pictured at the top of this page, do actually exist. Mere pictures can easily be faked. Videos, especially videos from a reliable source like the BBC, cannot.

The video evidence is also relevant because individual variation can be seen in the animals shown, with some looking identical to the very sheep-like animal shown above with its curly white fleece, to animals with sparser straight, black pelts more similar to that of European boars. This is exactly the sort of variation that occurs in a wide variety of hybrid crosses, where some individuals are more similar to one of the two parents that originally crossed to produce them, while others are more similar to the other. Such variation is especially characteristic of later-generation hybrids, the descendants of the first-generation, or F₁, hybrids produced by the original cross.

In the video accompanying Ms. Hooker’s article, it can also be seen that these animals have dark red meat like that of a sheep, not the light-colored meat typical of most pigs.

Eugene McCarthy #crackpot macroevolution.net

Stabilization Theory

An alternative theory of evolution

The main claims of stabilization theory, which distinguish it from neo-Darwinian theory, can be summarized as follows:

1. The typical form treated as a species comes into being via certain well-known, well-documented genetic processes ("stabilization processes") that produce new stable forms in an extremely rapid manner;
2. These processes produce new forms that are, for genetic reasons, inherently stable from the time of their inception right up to the time of their extinction. A corollary of this claim is the theory's assertion that any given type of organism produced by such a process has a negligible tendency to change over time in response to environmental constraints.

These primary tenets of stabilization theory can be contrasted with the following salient claims of neo-Darwinian theory:

1. The typical new form treated as a distinct species comes into being gradually through the accumulation of certain characteristic traits within an evolving population over time;
2. The accumulation and spread of these traits is due to environmental influences favoring the survival and reproduction of individuals having such traits (natural selection).

Only a few words of difference, but the implications are huge. Consider how extensively Darwinian theory has influenced not only biology, but also society at large and you will see that the stakes here are incredibly high — what if the axioms of Darwin's theory actually are erroneous? — and subsequent discussion will provide excellent reasons for believing they actually are — Then the theory itself is wrong and the entire Weltanschauung based upon it is mistaken. For example, under stabilization theory we select and shape our environment. The neo-Darwinian outlook, of course, is just the opposite: Under that view, the environment selects and shapes us.

As we shall see, the relative merits of these two hypotheses can in fact be evaluated by considering which of the two is more consistent with available data. But first, let's look at some examples of stabilization processes.

Submitter’s note: I’ll just summarise the rest.

The Theory
1. Evolutionary change is sudden, not gradual (Saltationism)
2. Speciation generally occurs as a result of hybridisation between species that may not be closely related. Humans, for instance, are chimpanzee-pig hybrids and platypi are mammal-bird hybrids.
3. Convergent evolution is a fallacy born from the assumption of traditional taxonomy and Darwinian evolution, they are actually the result of hybridisation

The Evidence
1. Birth defects that vaguely resemble another type of animals, e.g. syrenomelia and Harlequin ichtyosis support human-fish hybridisation.
2. Similarities actually due to convergent evolution.
3. He has a doctorate in genetics and researches hybridisation. Unless you are a geneticist and hybridisation expert as well, you are not qualified to criticise his theory. Even if you’re a biologist specialised in another relevant field.

Eugene McCarthy #crackpot macroevolution.net

Monotremes: Bird-mammal hybrids?

One strong clue that platypuses may be bird-mammal hybrids is the fact that in research appearing in the journal Nature Grützner et al. (2004) reported that platypuses, despite being classified as mammals, lack the gene SRY, which determines sex in mammals, and instead have a gene similar to DMRT1, which determines sex in birds (see also: Veyrunes et al. 2008). They demonstrated that the platypus genome contains sex chromosomes of both bird and mammal origin (read an article about this research >>). As Grützner, specifically stated in an interview: “The platypus actually links the bird sex chromosomes system with the mammalian sex chromosome systems.”

A draft version of the platypus genome (Warren et al. 2008) identified at least two genes otherwise known only in birds (see also Rens et al. 2007). Indeed, some of the sex chromosomes of monotremes share homology with bird sex chromosomes rather than those of mammals, report Veyrunes et al. (2008), who state that there is no homology between the platypus and therian X chromosomes…the platypus X chromosomes have substantial homology with the bird Z chromosome (including DMRT1) and to segments syntenic with this region in the human genome. Thus, platypus sex chromosomes have strong homology with bird, but not to therian† sex chromosomes.

Dohm et al. (2007) and Rens et al. (2007) have also identified regions of homology with the chicken Z sex chromosome on the platypus sex chromosomes X2p and X1p. And yet, Veyrunes et al. (2008, p. 966) found that "not a single BAC identified on the platypus sex chromosomes represented scaffolds that shared homology with the human X chromosome." In other words, researchers have found large regions of the platypus sex chromosomes that are very similar to regions on the chicken sex chromosome Z, and yet no similarity whatsoever to the sex chromosome of a mammal, i.e., the human X chromosome. And Veyrunes et al. (2008, p. 970) specifically state that "Platypus sex chromosomes are more bird-like than mammal-like."

The foregoing genetic evidence, then, is clearly consistent with the idea that platypuses are anciently derived from a cross between a mammal and a bird. So is the fact that they both lay eggs and produce milk. Their strange morphology, too, combines birdlike traits with those of a mammal. Obvious and well-known features of this sort are the presence of both a duckbill and a hair coat. But they also have a variety of lesser-known traits that seem to connect them with birds despite their classification as mammals.

If platypuses are not bird-mammal hybrids, then why should this be the case? It seems that only an extreme bias against the idea that such distant hybrids might be possible can account for the failure of scientists to recognize this obvious implication.

Available evidence for echidnas, the other type of monotreme, points in the same direction as what's available for platypuses. Like platypuses, echidnas lay eggs and produce milk. They also have a birdlike beak, but lack the feathers of a bird, and instead have a coat of spines like a hedgehog or porcupine. And they have many other avian characteristics.

The name monotreme, meaning “single orifice,” refers to the presence in both platypuses and echidnas of a cloaca, a common chamber into which the intestines, as well as the reproductive and urinary ducts, vent (Vaughan et al. 2011, p. 120). Though monotremes of both sexes do have a cloaca (as do birds, reptiles and amphibians), other mammals don't—with the exception of certain Malagasy insectivores known as tenrecs (Vaughan et al. 2011). In fact, the great French anatomist Georges Cuvier stated that the reproductive tracts of monotremes are “infinitely closer to those of oviparous animals than to those of mammals” (Recherches sur les ossemens fossile, vol. 5, p. 68).

It is because platypuses and echidnas have many features that are typical of birds, and not of mammals, that they are classified as separate from all other mammals. Since their genomes both contain genes otherwise found only in birds, and since they have so many other traits that connect them with birds, is it not, perhaps, reasonable to consider the possibility that they are not merely birdlike mammals, but that they are actually rare examples of hybrids descended from ancient, unusual matings between mammals and birds?

One might suppose that such distant crosses would be absolutely impossible, which is the big sticking point for some people. Indeed, there are those who are quite vehement on this point, though it's hard to see why, since little experimentation has been carried out to test the question. Commercial investigations using artificial insemination demonstrate beyond doubt that in some fairly distant crosses among birds (e.g., turkey × chicken or quail × chicken), a small percentage of fertilized eggs actually develop into mature hybrids (McCarthy 2006). And extensive experiments involving the hybridization of distantly related fish, Newman (1915, 1917 and 1918) found that many such crosses did produce hybrids, even in the case of inter-ordinal crosses.

And such findings do not go entirely against expectation. After all, it's not as if a mammal spermatozoon that suddenly found itself in the cloaca of a bird would clasp its blushing cheeks and cry, “Oh my ears and whiskers! I should not be here! Whatever shall I do?” On the contrary, one might reasonably suppose that, at least in certain instances, any such mislaid gamete might swim merrily on, and that one or more of them might at last reach an ovum, and that sometimes, perhaps very rarely, fertilization might occur. And over geological time, among the many such zygotes formed, some few might well have reached maturity and produced offspring.

So it may well be that even in very distant crosses, such as one between a bird and a mammal, after many thousands of matings, a few hybrids would be produced. Indeed, by following the links in the sidebar at right, you will find that there is a great deal of evidence supporting the idea that such hybrids actually do occur. Of course, without experimentation the frequency and ease with which such hybrids are produced must remain a matter of speculation.

If platypuses and echidnas were bird-mammal hybrids it would explain why they, unlike other mammals have so many avian traits. As has already been mentioned, such traits are enumerated on a separate page of this website. As to the specific type of mammal and bird proposed as parents, for a platypus a likely choice would seem to be some sort of duck mated with an otter- or perhaps beaver-like mammal. In the case of the echidna, a reasonable combination would be a hedgehog mated with a kiwi (an echidna actually looks much like a hedgehog body with a kiwi head attached). Such crosses would, of course, be far outside what conventional biological thought would accept as possible. But, then again, perhaps convention is mistaken.

Eugene McCarthy #crackpot #conspiracy macroevolution.net

Pig-human Hybrids

Can a primate cross with a pig to produce viable offspring? Many scientists would say no. And yet, truth to tell, ostensible hybrids of this type, in particular ones which seem to involve human beings, have been repeatedly reported. There are dozens of newspaper reports about pig-human hybrids on record, and many additional accounts in the older literature, as well. The reports vary somewhat, but basically, they all describe creatures with the body of an ordinary pig, except for the presence of hands and/or a human-like head, that is, the front end is similar to human, the rear end, to pig.

The reports differ with respect to the claimed degree of resemblance of the foreparts to those of humans. Some, however, do allege an exact similarity (see the transcripts of old newspaper reports). The most recent accounts of ostensible pig-human hybrids (for which photographic evidence is available) depict creatures with faces that are reminiscent of, but certainly not identical to, those of human beings. Indeed, several of these recent probable hybrids have a fleshy process like an elephant trunk attached to their foreheads, a structure known as a frontal proboscis. Frontal proboscides are also mentioned in some of the older reports.

imageStrange “piglet” born in China in 2008. Note the presence of what appears to be an undetached frontal proboscis.


By those who choose to deny the possibility of distant hybridization, the condition shown here is often described as holoprosencephaly, a term used to refer to various malformations of the brain and face. In humans, the symptoms range from mild (e.g., anosomia or the presence of a single central incisor without other facial defect) to severe, for example, convergent eyes (or even cyclopia), absence of a nose, and/or the presence of a frontal proboscis (a tubular appendage attached to the forehead). Holoprosencephaly is a rare condition and its causes are not understood. The etiology is, in general, specified only vaguely as the result of a “disruption” in development. To the student of hybridization, the question of interest here is whether the disruption in such cases might be due to the incompatibility of genomes forced into interaction by the mating of two highly disparate types of organisms.

Eugene McCarthy #crackpot macroevolution.net

Okapi: A giraffe-zebra hybrid?

imageOn their rumps and legs, okapis have striping like that of a zebra.

imageThe okapi has a giraffe-like head.

The okapi (Okapia johnstoni), also known as the forest giraffe or zebra giraffe, is a good example of the way theory affects both perception and research activities. Okapis mix traits otherwise seen only separately either in the giraffe or in the zebra, and under ordinary circumstances this fact would constitute strong evidence that okapis are giraffe-zebra hybrids. Moreover, old news reports say that peoples native to the region where the okapi occurs believe it to be a giraffe-zebra hybrid.

And yet it seems no scientist has investigated this possibility. Why? Well, in trees representing accepted notions of evolutionary descent, giraffes and zebras are placed on widely separate branches. So any biologist worth his or her salt will tell you: The two are simply too far apart for giraffe-zebra hybrids to be possible. Thus, it is not surprising that there are no reports of attempts to produce giraffe-zebra hybrids. Experimentation does not occur because theory says it would be useless to try.

imageOkapi tongue

imageGiraffe tongue

The okapi and the giraffe were assigned to the same order (Artiodactyla) because they both have cloven hooves, and to the same family (Giraffidae) because they share certain distinctive features: Both have large eyes and ears, thin lips and a long, extensible tongue that allows them to lick their entire face (even the ears); their backs slope upward from rump to withers; they also share the same dental formula: (i 0/3, c 0/1, pm 3/3, m 3/3) × 2 = 32. Both, unlike any other mammal, have molars with rugose enamel and bony horns that remain covered with skin throughout life (Nowak 1999, vol. 2, p. 1085).

Yet the rump and legs of an okapi are covered with black-and-white stripes exactly like those of a zebra. Perhaps, then, if okapis had solid hooves instead of cloven ones, they would be classified as perissodactyls (Order Perissodactyla) and would be considered more closely related to zebras than to giraffes? An okapi is about the same size as a Burchell’s zebra.

The chromosome count of an okapi is also like that of a zebra, to which it is not supposed to be related, and unlike that of a giraffe. Giraffes have 30 chromosomes (Taylor et al. 1967; Hösli and Lang 1970; Koulisher et al. 1971), whereas okapis have a variable chromosome number of 44-46, depending on the animal in question; most seem to have 2n = 45 (Ulbrich and Schmitt 1969; Hösli and Lang 1970; Koulisher 1978). The chromosome number of Grevy’s zebra is 2n = 46 and plains zebras have 2n = 44 (Benirschke and Malouf 1967). Variation in chromosome count is itself unusual among mammals, but common in hybrids.

Okapis also produce high levels of abnormal sperm, which is consistent with the idea that they are the products of a distant hybrid cross. Thus, Penfold (2007) reports that 52% percent of the spermatozoa produced by these animals are morphologically abnormal. As those authors state, “okapi semen collected by electroejaculation routinely contain high numbers of non-motile and plasma membrane-damaged spermatozoa, apparently unrelated to season or the length of time since the male was housed with a breeding female.”

imageGiraffe and zebra drinking together Giraffe and zebra drinking together at Kruger Park.

It is, of course, well known that giraffes and zebras exist in mixed herds in various parts of Africa, and therefore are in potential breeding contact (these regions include those where okapis occur).

However, zebras are much smaller than giraffes, which might lead one to suppose that they would be physically unable to mate. And yet, hybrids sometimes occur between animals where the disparity in size is even greater. Male Steller sea-lions (Eumetopias jubatus) often mate, and sometimes even successfully hybridize with female California sea-lions. And yet the former average around 1100 lbs while the latter weigh only around 200 lbs., a ratio of 5.5:1 (the female often dies in such encounters) Such cases are nothing unusual in the literature on hybridization. Florio (1983) reports a case of a lion father who weighed 550 pounds (250 kg), while the leopard mother weighed a mere 84 pounds (38 kg), a ratio of 6.54:1.

In the case of a male giraffe 2,628 pounds (1,192 kg) with a female zebra, 770 pounds (350 kg),the weight ratio is only 3.4:1, that is, the difference is less disparate than in either of the two crosses just mentioned.

And this difference would be even smaller with the cross reversed, that is, with a female giraffe and a male zebra. Giraffe females weigh nearly a thousand pounds less than males, while zebra males weigh a bit more than females, which would yield a ratio closer to 2:1, not at all unusual in a hybrid cross. Moreover, giraffes do sometimes lie down, and a male zebra would, of course, have much better access to a recumbent female giraffe.

A final fact consistent with the idea that okapis might be giraffe-zebra hybrids is their rarity at the present day and their absence from the fossil record. Hamilton (1977) says that while giraffes are well-known as fossils, paleontologists have seen no trace of okapis. Zebras, too, are known from fossils (Eisenmann 1992). The IUCN rates the okapi as endangered, although it also states that “there is no reliable estimate of current population size.”

Eugene McCarthy #crackpot macroevolution.net

Human-chicken Hybrids
Page 1: The Hühnermensch

Caution: Some readers may find this page disturbing.
Note: Although the report quoted on this page states that a woman gave birth to the specimen in question, all other allegations of human-chicken hybrids seem to refer to offspring hatched by chickens.
Note: In listing reports of hybrids, it has been my policy to include all serious allegations, especially those of scholars, whether or not the hybrid alleged seems possible or likely to me. This policy, I think, helps to eliminate subjective judgment on my part, and therefore should remove at least one source of systematic bias from my work. It also helps to fulfill the ethical obligation of telling not just the truth, but the whole truth.
imageThe Hühnermensch (as depicted in Friderici 1737). (Enlarge) The original engraving is life-sized (crown-rump length of subject is 20 cm). A: red-pigmented structure similar to the comb of a domestic fowl; B: sparse, downy hair; C: circular eye openings (as in G. gallus); D: red periophthalmic rings (as in G. gallus); E and F: nasal opening with rudimentary nares; G: oral cavity; g: external tongue (or wattle?); H: the “upper extremities are not unlike those of a plucked chicken”; I: hands with lengthy fingers and “claws exactly like those of a chicken”; K: umbilical cord; L: “The deformed feet, which are in an abnormal position and attached to chicken-like shanks, are, with the exception of their soles, of a wholly unwonted form, with the toes marvelously distorted and tipped with claws that are likewise exactly those of a domestic chicken”; M: cutaneous flap joining the thighs with the calves; N: a red-pigmented lentiform structure in place of normal human genitalia; O: anus (cloaca?).
Although some people may take lurid interest in gazing at pictures of deformed infants such as those shown on this page, this article was written for a different reason, that being to record information that will assist scientists in answering a single question: How different can two animals be if they are to produce a hybrid together? Of course, this question cannot be answered by simply reading this page. After all, the creature discussed here may not even be a hybrid (though genetic tests of the specimen would probably be able to resolve that issue). But the information documented here will help anyone who wishes to investigate the matter further.

In 1735, the German physician Gottlieb Friderici (1693-1742) attended the delivery of an infant in the small town of Taucha, a few kilometers northeast of Leipzig. His patient, 28-year-old Johanna Sophia Schmied, had previously given birth to three normal boys, and Friderici anticipated nothing unusual.

“But then,” he writes,

from this fourth pregnancy she brought forth this dreadful monster, which I propose to describe. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original Latin: “Tandem quarta vice gravida, horrendum hoc, quod describendum iam mihi proposui, in lucem edidit monstrum.”]

Friderici’s “dreadful monster,” stillborn that day after an eight-month gestation, was indeed peculiar, so peculiar that he took the trouble to write up a detailed anatomical account, entitled Monstrum humanum rarissimum (i.e., An Exceedingly Rare Human Monster), which he published two years later (Friderici 1737). He also immediately hired an artist to prepare engravings of this strange birth, now known as the Hühnermensch (“chicken-human”). The resulting illustrations, reproduced here, accompanied Friderici’s account.

This remarkable specimen has been preserved in the collection of the Heimatmuseum und Naturalienkabinett Waldenburg, a museum in Saxony, and is therefore available for genetic testing. Either by coincidence or by heredity, it does seem to have enough characteristics in common with chickens to earn its name. Friderici repeatedly commented on the ostensible connection this babe makes between Class Mammalia and Class Aves. For example, during the course of his anatomical description, he says,

The upper extremities are not unlike those of a plucked chicken … and the digits, while normal in order and number, have claws exactly like those of a chicken. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original Latin: “Extremitates superiores significat, brachia scilicet alis gallinarum, plumis privatarum, non absimilia. Cubito annexae manus oculis se exponunt, digitis quidem, si rationem numeri et ordinis habeas, legitimis, unguibus autem pullorum ungulis plane similibus.”]

“The deformed feet,” he says,
which are in an abnormal position and attached to chicken-like shanks, are, with the exception of their soles, of a wholly unwonted form, with the toes marvelously distorted and tipped with claws that are likewise exactly those of a domestic chicken. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original Latin: “adjectos trunco pedes monstrat, utpote qui, inusitatum plane situm obtinentes, cum gallinarum cruribus aliqua ex parte convenire videntur, si a plantis pedum discesseris, quae ab humanis quidem non diversae sunt, at digiti tamen mire distorti apparent, ac ungues itidem pullorum gallinaceorum unguas referunt.”]

As do chickens, this literal Wunderkind has eye rings (periophthalmic rings) and a comb-like structure atop its head, both composed of red tissue, as in chickens. In addition, as in all birds, the ears are represented by only a small opening with no raised, external ears (pinnae), which are present in all mammals other than monotremes. Also as in birds, external genitalia are absent and the testes are internal.

It can also be seen in the illustrations that the skin is loosely attached to the underlying tissues, so loosely that it forms webbing at various regions of flexure (neck, elbow, knee, crotch). The skin of a bird, too, is more elastic and more loosely attached to the body than is that of the typical mammal, which is generally interpreted as giving birds the freedom of movement needed for flight (Stettenheim 2000).

Gottlieb Friderici was born in 1693 in the village of Taucha in Saxony (the same community where he later delivered the Hühnermensch). He completed his dissertation at the University of Leipzig around 1713 and became a doctor of philosophy and medicine. He was thereafter a general practitioner in Leipzig up to the time of his death in 1742. (Biographical details from Huppmann 2006.)

The heart, too, was larger than that of an ordinary human infant. And, according to a Kentucky University webpage on the avian circulatory system,
Birds tend to have larger hearts than mammals (relative to body size and mass). The relatively large hearts of birds may be necessary to meet the high metabolic demands of flight. Among birds, smaller birds have relatively larger hearts (again relative to body mass) than larger birds. Hummingbirds have the largest hearts (relative to body mass) of all birds, probably because hovering takes so much energy.

During the necropsy, Friderici found that the comb-like structure atop the head actually contained brain tissue, a situation reminiscent of that described by Purohit et al. (1977), who note that many hybrids produced by crossing pheasants with chickens are exencephalic (i.e., the brain is located outside the skull).

Among the anomalies exhibited by the Hühnermensch is a syndrome known as kleeblattschädel, a congenital anomaly in which there is intrauterine synostosis of multiple or all cranial sutures. This is another avian characteristic of the specimen, because in birds the cranial sutures also fuse at a very early stage of development (Brown 1915, p. 72).

If the Hühnermensch actually is a bird-mammal hybrid, then at this distance in time, one can only speculate about what might have happened back in Taucha all those many years ago. Did a rooster wander into a rustic bedroom and sit for a time on the lap of his naked mistress? Perhaps Johanna Sophia Schmied was a member of a coven that engaged in dark orgiastic rites that resulted in a weird creature seeing the light of day? Or possibly one day while gathering eggs she had her hands full and placed some rooster-semen-coated eggs in her underpants to carry them back to the house? Whatever happened, it seems the Hühnermensch took flight from there.

Why would such hybrids occasionally occur? In certain distant crosses only a small percentage of inseminations result in a viable hybrid. This fact has been experimentally verified in crosses of commercial interest, such as chicken × turkey, a cross in which about 1000 inseminations are required to produce a single adult hybrid. The vast majority of hybrids from such crosses die at various stages of development before reaching maturity. Among mammals, such distant hybrids often abort or are stillborn. Among birds, they usually die in the egg. But some, very few, survive. Even from the present, extremely distant cross (human × chicken), viable mature hybrids have been reported (however dubiously). So it seems that it is not that distant hybrids are entirely impossible, but rather that they do occur, but with hybrids that reach advanced stages of development being produced at only at very low frequencies. One can speculate that this experimental observation may reflect the existence of an unrecognized underlying rescue mechanism that activates/deactivates portions of the hybrid genome at random, so that different individuals have different developmental programs, a mechanism actuated, perhaps, via random heterochromatization of various portions of the composite genome.

Some very strange pairings can result from imprinting. When a newborn mammal or bird is exposed to some animal not of its own kind it may “imprint” on that animal, that is, later in life it may seek mates of that kind rather than its own, as a sexual partners. In connection with the present case, Hess (1959) reports that he imprinted a rooster on human beings by exposing him only to humans during the first month of life and keeping him strictly away from other chickens. As an adult, the rooster sought only human mates even when allowed access to hens. So one can think of various scenarios based on this knowledge: an accidentally imprinted rooster, an intoxicated or unconscious woman, and a very unusual mating.

At any rate, this specimen is a very interesting one and, given that it would no doubt be an F1 hybrid (if it is a hybrid at all), it would be very easy to detect its origins with genetic testing. One quick and easy method would be PCR amplification using human and chicken primers. As Cicero once said (De Officiis, I, 6),

We must not treat the unknown as known and too readily accept it. And he who wishes to avoid this error (as all should do) will devote both time and attention to the weighing of evidence.