Technology

300-million-year-old reptile holds the title for the oldest known skin fossil

1. Oldest Fossilised Skin Ever Found

A collection of 300-million-year-old fossilised skin fragments, belonging to a crocodile-like reptile, were recently discovered in an ancient limestone cave in Oklahoma. The rarity of skin fossilisation makes this discovery significant, as it offers insight into the evolution of skin and its role in vertebrate evolution. The fossilisation process was facilitated by the low-oxygen environment of the cave sediment, slowing down decay and preserving the skin.

2. Surprising Discovery and Delicate Examination

The discovery of the fossilised skin fragments came as a surprise to researchers who were conducting microscopic 3D scans on the tiny black fragments. The scans revealed a pebbled texture of scales resembling crocodile skin, specifically those found on the flanks of crocodiles. The delicate nature of the fragments required gentle handling during the examination process, which ultimately led to the identification of the unique skin texture.

3. Ambiguous Species and Possible Origins

While the researchers concluded that the fossilised skin belonged to a Palaeozoic reptile, they were unable to definitively identify the species. However, based on nearby fossils, they suspect that the skin fragments may have come from an extinct lizard-like species called Captorhinus aguti. The cause of the reptile’s presence in the cave remains unclear, with possibilities ranging from falling down a vertical shaft to being swept into the cave during a severe rainstorm.

4. Insight into Skin Evolution and Vertebrate Transition

The 21-million-year difference in age between these fossilised skin fragments and previously known ones sheds new light on the evolution of skin in vertebrates as they transitioned from living in the sea to living on land. The water-tight barrier provided by skin played a crucial role in facilitating this transition, protecting sensitive organs from the outside world. As such, this discovery offers an exceptional opportunity to study the early chapter of higher vertebrate evolution and gain a better understanding of the development of skin in land-dwelling animals.

5. Conclusion

The discovery of the oldest fossilised skin fragments belonging to a crocodile-like reptile in Oklahoma provides valuable insights into the evolution of skin in vertebrates. This rare finding offers a unique opportunity to study the early stages of higher vertebrate evolution and gain a better understanding of the role of skin in facilitating the transition from aquatic to land-dwelling animals. As research on these fossilised fragments continues, it is anticipated that further discoveries will contribute to our understanding of the evolutionary history of vertebrate skin.

Researchers have discovered the oldest known skin fossil, dating back 300 million years, from a reptile that lived during the Carboniferous period. The fossil, which was found in Nova Scotia, Canada, is the first of its kind to be found from this time period and provides new insights into the evolutionary history of reptile skin. The findings shed light on how reptiles adapted to their environment and help to fill gaps in our understanding of ancient reptiles. This discovery represents a significant advancement in the study of prehistoric reptiles and their physical characteristics.

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