A Cretaceous Cockatrice?

One benefit about the last stint in my job was that it required a lot of driving, and a lot of driving means a good amount of talk radio. I’ve always been a fan of NPR, but when I heard a story about the Chicken from Hell, a palentologist discovery of a large bird-like dinosaur, all I could think was, “Holy shit, the cockatrice is real!”

According to Wikipedia, references to the mythical cockatrice, with its dragon body and rooster head, come into play in the late twelfth century. Much like the basilisk or Medusa, this creature had the ability to turn a person to stone with its gaze or even its touch. The sound of a rooster’s crow could kill it, as could a reflection of its own gaze. Taking a look at an image of the dinosaur Anzu wyliei and the cockatrice, it’s pretty difficult to ignore a similarity.

As someone who has been in love with fantastical beasts for as long as I can remember, this connection causes more excitement in me that I can even reasonably put to words. What a novel concept to think that the discoveries we’re making today about a dinosaur might be in line with discoveries made hundreds of years ago. They had their own way of explaining these strange creatures they saw being put together in bones; we have ours. In hundreds more years, would this Chicken from Hell take on another form? What other mythical beasts may lie hidden in the secrets of our ancient past? It makes me think of how incredible the scope of history can be, and it makes you really appreciate how short human life has been in the grand scheme of Earth’s rich changes.

Anyone else out there hear about this discovery and immediately think of the cockatrice? Isn’t it such a fascinating idea that the monsters of the past may turn out to be scientific actuality in the future? What sort of fantastical creatures will they be making out of our own bones and ruins thousands of years from now?

Although, I do have to admit, writing this post and gawking at the similarities is threatening to make my alektrophobia come sweeping back in. I don’t care. Chickens are creepy as hell without being descended from giant dinosaurs, too. This only helps prove my point.


    • Actually, chickens along with all other avians, retain the genes for teeth, tails, claws and other theropod characteristics. Teeth have already been grown on chickens (5 years later and there’s still no pictures). Perhaps this kind of regression could happen rarely, but spontaneously… if so, there’s your cockatrice right there. Perhaps a fertile egg laid by a hermaphrodite with the appearance of a male turns on the required epigenetic switch.

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