TechThe oldest reptile skin fossil gives insight into the amphibious lifestyle during the Paleozoic era

The oldest reptile skin fossil gives insight into the amphibious lifestyle during the Paleozoic era

Archaeologist at work
Archaeologist at work
Images source: © Getty Images | JOHN ELK III
9:58 AM EST, January 27, 2024

In an article featured in "Current Biology", the fossil of the oldest animal skin is discussed. It is unique because the preserved skin texture resembles a crocodile's. This reptilian skin fossil belongs to a creature from the early Paleozoic era that led terrestrial and aquatic life.

Being the oldest known specimen of animal skin, this incredible discovery offers scientists significant insight into the evolution of animals and their shift from water to land-based lives.

The specimen was unearthed at the Richards Spur limestone cave system in Oklahoma. Fossilization of skin and soft tissues seldom occurs; however, due to the unusual conditions associated with limestone caves' microclimate, fossilization was possible in this case. Scientists suspect these preserved fossils are of animals who unfortunately fell into the caves and could not escape.

While the found fossilized skin piece is small - smaller than a fingernail – its structure can be thoroughly analyzed through microscopic studies.

After conducting these studies, scientists have inferred that the skin's structure closely resembles amniotes - terrestrial creatures that developed the capability to reproduce on land due to their fetal membranes. It is believed that feathers of birds and hair follicles in mammals evolved from such skin types.

The specimens from this discovery are currently stored in the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada.

Related content