Dinosaur dandruff found in 125 million-year-old tiny beast

Cristina Cross
May 31, 2018

The crow-sized dinosaur lived about 125 million years ago.

"We were originally interested in studying the feathers, and when we were looking at the feathers we kept finding these little white blobs, the stuff was everywhere, it was in between all the feathers", lead author Dr. Maria McNamara from University College Cork told BBC News.

This is the earliest known example of dandruff to date.

"Until now we've had no evidence for how dinosaurs shed their skin".

An worldwide research team led by scientists at University College Cork, Linyi University, and China's Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology has found and analyzed dandruff fragments preserved amongst the plumage of Cretaceous feathered non-avian dinosaurs, revealing the first evidence of how dinosaurs shed their skin.

Researchers had recently discovered the oldest case (that they know of) of dandruff. The skin cells were later determined to be nearly identical to those of modern birds.

Scientists borrowed four fossils from an institute in Biejing and removed small chips of tissue, scanning for samples using an electron microscope and then comapring them to similar flakes that were found on modern birds.

The following is a statement from University College Cork Ireland on the discover.

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Tests on two other feathered dinosaurs, beipiaosaurus and sinornithosaurus, and a primitive bird known as confuciusornis, also revealed pieces of fossilised dandruff on the animals' bodies, reports the Guardian.

"The fossil cells are preserved with incredible detail - right down to the level of nanoscale keratin fibrils".

Precisely like human dandruff, skin flake is made out of stong cells called corneocytes - they're full of protein keratin.

The research, which appeared in the Nature Communications journal, hints that ancient feathered dinosaurs had previously progressed to deal with their feathering in the middle Jurassic.

The researchers traveled to China in 2012 to study fossils of feathered dinosaurs.

However, unlike the modern dandruff in birds, which have loose keratin, the keratin in these corneocytes was packed tight.

Dinos weren't as warm-blooded: The corneocytes in the fossil dinosaurs and birds, however, were packed with keratin - suggesting that the fossils of dinosaurs did not get as warm as modern birds, presumably because they could not fly at all or for as long periods. It's fantastic how they were in the early stages of evolution when it comes to feathers an still managed to adapt their skin to this modern structure, as McNamara said.

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