Scientists have discovered the oldest piece of living creature skin ever discovered. The skin resembles that of a crocodile, but it belongs to an as yet unknown animal. This animal lived nearly 300 million years ago, before dinosaurs set foot on Earth.
The piece of skin was found in a cave in the US state of Oklahoma. Normally, the skin decomposes quickly after the creature dies. But this skin was well preserved due to factors including the low amount of oxygen and the presence of oil and tar in the cave, says lead researcher Ethan Mooney.
Reptile skin is between 286 and 289 million years old. This makes the animal from which the skin came at least 20 million years older than the first dinosaurs, the scientists wrote in the journal. Current biology.
Skin comes from the time when many animal species crawled onto land from water and continued to evolve. This may explain why the skin resembles that of a crocodile. Crocodiles have lived since the time of the dinosaurs and have changed little since then.
The skin probably belonged to Captorhinus agouti, a small lizard-like creature. The bones of that animal have been found before, but its skin has not yet been found.
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