Dinosaur dandruff? Yes, you read that right.
Researchers discovered what they believe is the oldest known case of dandruff in a tiny feathered dinosaur that roamed the Earth around 125 million years ago.
Paleontologists found tiny flakes of fossilised skin on a crow-sized microraptor, a meat-eating dinosaur that had wings on all four of its limbs.
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 ancient skin flakes are reportedly the only evidence researchers have that show how dinosaurs shed their skin.
“This is the only fossil dandruff known,” Maria McNamara, who worked on the dinosaur fossils at University College Cork, told the Guardian. “Until now we’ve had no evidence for how dinosaurs shed their skin.”
Images of the dandruff taken with a powerful electron microscope show that the material is extremely well-preserved and is almost identical to that found on modern birds. Like human dandruff, the skin flakes are made of tough cells called corneocytes that are full of the protein keratin.
The work, published in Nature Communications, suggests that dinosaurs who sported feathers evolved skin to cope with their plumage as far back as the middle Jurassic.
“Even though they are in the early stages of feather evolution, they have already adapted their skin to this more modern structure,” McNamara said.
The fossilized remains of the animals were recovered in northeastern China. At 2 meters long, beipiaosaurus and sinornithosaurus grew to more than twice the size of the microraptor.