Recent years have seen a lot of misinformation about dinosaurs get cleared up. For example, we now know many of them had feathers and some were brightly colored, instead of the dark, leathery depictions of these extinct creatures that were popular in the past. We have also learned a lot about their daily lives, including their diets and even a bit about their hygiene. Now, scientists have discovered something unexpected: dinosaurs had dandruff.
The finding was published in Nature Communications and discusses how dinosaur dandruff fossils were uncovered. They were found when feathers from the Cretaceous period were being studied. These feathers were located in China, and were from the Microraptor, the Beipiaosaurus, and the Sinornithosaurus. Feathers from an early specieis of bird called the Confuciuornis. The team had been working with these fossils since 2007. This is their most recent success.
Answering Previously Unexplained Questions
Thanks to 125-million-year-old dandruff, scientists now know that dinosaurs shed their skin much like birds; in small, dandruff-like flakes. While learning anything about dinosaurs is exciting, this recent discovery gives scientists more than neat information, it actually answers a decades-old question. All animals molt, or shed their old skin, feathers, and hair, in some way. This includes dinosaurs. However, no one was quite sure how dinosaur skin worked or the process by which they molted. Some speculated that they took a whole-skin approach to shedding, much the same way snakes and certain types of lizards do. Others believed that dinosaurs molted in pieces, like birds and crocodiles. The latter theory was more widely believed, as dinosaurs are more closely related to birds.
Shedding Light onto Feathered Dinosaurs
The scientific paper that was subsequently published to announce these findings specifically avoided using the word “dandruff,” since it most commonly refers to flakes found in human hair. However, this is a pretty accurate description, since the flakes of skin were found in between the shafts of feathers. Each one was about one to two millimeters across. The ability to shed skin in this manner was likely developed in the Middle Jurassic period.
In addition to telling scientists how dinosaurs shed their skins, it also provides other useful information. For example, it lets them know that the species studied were not as warm blooded as modern birds, nor could they fly with the same speed, if at all. It also confirms that non-avian dinosaurs and birds share many of the same features, which could lead to even more exciting discoveries later on down the road.