Scientists have discovered mummified skin that is older than the dinosaurs. The skin, which they say likely belonged to a reptile, is estimated to come from the Paleozoic era, between 541 million to 252 million years ago. It dates back at least 290 million years.
The skin was discovered by paleontologists in Oklahoma, and it appears to have a pebble-like, non-overlapping scales design, which is very akin to ancient reptile species, the researchers explain in their study. They say it mostly resembles the extinct Cretaceous dinosaur Edmontosaurus and crocodile skin.
However, the age of the mummified skin means it is older than the dinosaurs, so it can’t have belonged to the Edmontosaurus or another dinosaur like it. The researchers write that it also has hinged regions between the epidermal scales that resemble the skin structure of modern snakes and worm lizards.
The study on the mummified skin was published in Current Biology. According to study co-author Ethan Mooney, the piece is “technically the oldest piece of a proper mummified skin.” (via LiveScience)
Understanding the origins of the mummified skin can help us better understand some of the creatures that lived in the ages older than the dinosaurs. Most other proper mummified and older skin pieces come from dinosaurs. This piece, however, is dated 130 million years older than any of those.
The researchers also say that the structure of the skin could have been vital to the species’ transition and survival from being an aquatic animal to living fully in terrestrial environments, as the skin would have protected the creature’s organs from the elements.
Ultimately, the piece of mummified skin that was found is roughly the size of a tiny fingernail, and it was preserved in clay sediments found in the Richards Spur limestone cave system in Oklahoma, along with some other specimens. The fact that the mummified skin was preserved so well allowed the researchers to properly age it as being older than the dinosaurs.