In a rare discovery, scientists have uncovered the oldest piece of fossilized skin

Now a small piece of planar fossil found in a cave in Oklahoma A primitive piece of preserved skin, the archaeologists report Thursday in the journal Current Biology. The discovery allows scientists to better understand how the ancestors of many of today's terrestrial animals adapted to living on land, and it may eventually shed light on the later development of feathers and hair.

Ancient skin specimen, larger than a human fingernail In the early days of the Permian period, about 289 million years ago, Earth's continents merged into a supercontinent surrounded by a global ocean. This landscape supported diverse groups of ancient plants, reptiles, primitive amphibians and various insects.

A generally warmer and drier climate during the Permian period played a significant role in facilitating the transition of early reptiles from a semi-aquatic to a fully terrestrial lifestyle. The emergence of important reptilian groups eventually led to the evolution and further separation of mammals and reptiles—though the Permian ended in a dramatic mass extinction that wiped out 90 percent of the planet's species.

Studying fossils from the Permian period provides scientists with valuable insights into the ancestral animals that eventually evolved into the life forms we know today.

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Although scientists can't say for sure which species the fossilized skin comes from, its microscopic structures show that it was part of a group called amniotes, which includes mammals, reptiles and birds. The patterning is similar to crocodile skin, indicating that this type of skin may have been found in early reptiles and their relatives.

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“Preservation of soft tissue is extremely rare, and this fossil discovery actually represents the first major innovation in the structure of the body's largest organ, which is the skin,” said study co-author Robert Reiss. Toronto at Mississauga.

An amateur collector discovered the skin fossil while working in the Richards Spur limestone cave system, a known fossil site north of Lawton, Okla. The collector donated it to researchers in 2018. This tissue was sent to Reyes and his team. Ethan Mooney is a graduate student in paleontology at the University of Toronto.

Fossilization of skin and soft tissue is rare, but the authors believe that the clay-rich cave conditions, including the oil spill, provided an optimal environment for preservation. Hydrocarbons in oil spills prevent decomposition and decomposition, effectively sealing soft tissue from oxygen and microbial activity, contributing to its long-term preservation.

Because fossilized skin is so delicate, the researchers embedded the sample in epoxy and cut a fine-tipped diamond to examine it under a microscope. The researchers were able to date the fossil based on previous research published in 2013.

From their studies, they were also able to learn that the fossil had similar anatomical features to extinct species. Captorinus is severewhich Lived during the Permian period and belonged to the earliest group of reptiles. Research suggests that these species had flexible, tough skin or epidermal tissue that may have served protective, locomotor, or structural functions.

Paul E., a professor of fossil and environmental sciences at Columbia University who was not involved in the research. Olsen said one of the biggest takeaways from the discovery is that it addresses some of the mysteries surrounding the evolution of the common ancestor. Mammals and Reptiles. These two branches diverged during the Paleozoic Era, which includes the Permian.

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“This is an exciting discovery because it spurs more discoveries in one place … and we may eventually learn what kind of skin reptiles had,” Olsen said.

Discoveries from the Permian period provide important information about the evolutionary history of life on Earth, the dynamics of ancient ecosystems, and environmental changes during this pivotal time in Earth's history.

Mooney said, “A lot of people don't think about what came before the dinosaurs, and in our study, we're able to look back at what some of these ancestors did for many important groups. [animals] Today we know and may seem to love.”

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