It is an age-old riddle that has perplexed generations: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Now British scientists claim to have finally come up with the definitive answer: The chicken.
The scientific and philosophical mystery was purportedly unraveled by researchers at Sheffield and Warwick universities, according to the Daily Mail newspaper.
The scientists found that a protein found only in a chicken's ovaries is necessary for the formation of the egg, according to the paper Wednesday. The egg can therefore only exist if it has been created inside a chicken.
More from TODAY.com
Hillary Clinton: Granddaughter led me 'to speed up' political plans
Clinton said she is inspired to keep working to ensure that Charlotte and her generation are provided equal opportunities ...
- Lauren Hill, inspirational college basketball player, dies
- Marathon dad's victories help raise money for son with spina bifida
- Will it work on Vale? Savannah tries tissue sleeping trick at home
- Listen to the chilling 911 call Sandra Bullock made during break-in
- Hillary Clinton: Granddaughter led me 'to speed up' political plans
The protein speeds up the development of the hard shell, which is essential in protecting the delicate yolk and fluids while the chick grows inside the egg, the report said.
"It had long been suspected that the egg came first but now we have the scientific proof that shows that in fact the chicken came first," said Dr. Colin Freeman, from Sheffield University's Department of Engineering Materials, according to the Mail.
"The protein had been identified before and it was linked to egg formation, but by examining it closely we have been able to see how it controls the process," he said.
Professor John Harding, from the same department, said the discovery could have other uses, according to the Daily Mail.
"Understanding how chickens make egg shells is fascinating in itself but can also give clues towards designing new materials and processes," he said.
"Nature has found innovative solutions that work for all kinds of problems in materials science and technology — we can learn a lot from them."
The discovery was revealed in the paper Structural Control Of Crystal Nuclei By An Eggshell Protein.
© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints