Scientist to Find Dinosaur Dandruff in a 125 Million-Year-Old Animal

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"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.

As reported in The Guardian, palaeontologists found tiny flakes of fossilised skin on a crow-sized Microraptor, a meat-eating dinosaur that had wings on all four of its limbs.

Did you just read Dinosaur and Dandruff together?

The pictures of the dinosaurs' dandruff, captured with a high-performance electronic microscope, depict extremely intact flakes, which are almost similar to the flakes of modern-day birds. But those flakes are similar to those found in modern birds.

The 125-million-year-old dandruff is the first evidence of how dinosaurs shed their skin.

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

Although this might seem like a weird thing to look out for, it actually has huge implications for what we know about how feathered dinosaurs shed their skin.

The researchers used an electron microscope to study feathers from Chinese samples of the microraptor as well as the feathered dinosaurs beipiaosaurus and sinornithosaurus, and the primitive bird confuciusornis.

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

As human dandruff, flakes, found in the dinosaurs are exfoliated stratum corneum - cells with a high content of 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.

Dr McNamara led the study, in collaboration with her postdoctoral researcher Dr Chris Rogers; Dr Andre Toulouse and Tara Foley; Dr Paddy Orr from UCD and an worldwide team of palaeontologists from the United Kingdom and China. The researchers say that modern birds have very fatty dandruff cells because this helps them shed heat when they are flying.

Modern birds have very fatty corneocytes with loosely packed keratin, which allows them to cool down quickly when they are flying for extended periods.

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.