Scientists are always learning something new about dinosaurs, including the newly discovered fact about the dead skin cells of feathered dinosaurs.
What Was Discovered About Dinosaurs?
The findings were published in a study on May 25 in Nature Communications.
The significant aspect of the discovery is that dinosaurs did not shed their skin in one giant piece like modern reptiles. Instead, dinosaurs shed their skin in smaller pieces.
Researchers say that dandruff had odd shapes, sizes, and thickness. They believe that the dandruff evolved during the Middle Jurassic period as a response to the emergence of feathered dinosaurs. The dandruff had less fat than the dandruff of modern birds.
The dandruff is also more proof that feather dinosaurs lacked sufficient flying skills. The dinosaurs likely couldn't stay in the air for a long time. The feathers were used to keep dinosaurs warm or to attract members of the opposite sex.
"This structure confirms that basal birds and non-avian dinosaurs shed small epidermal flakes as in modern mammals and birds, but structural differences imply that these Cretaceous taxa had lower body heat production than modern birds," the researchers wrote.
How Did Scientists Discover The Dandruff?
During a 2012 expedition to China, researchers sought to the study the feathers of dinosaurs. However, there were "little white blobs" between the feathers.
"We started wondering if it was a biological feature like fragments of shells, or reptile skin, but it's not consistent with any of those things, the only option left was that it was fragments of the skin that were preserved, and it's identical in structure to the outer part of the skin in modern birds, what we would call dandruff," lead author Dr. Maria McNamara from University College Cork told BBC News.
Using powerful electron microscopes and chemical analysis, they studied a crow-sized microraptor that was unable to fly. They also examined similar dinosaurs with feathers.
While studying the fossils, they noticed tiny specks of dinosaur skin. Looking closely at it, they found corneocytes, which is a different type of cells. The corneocytes contained keratin fibers that are similar to dandruff. Based on this discovery, it was determined that some dinosaurs developed dandruff.
"The fossil corneocytes exhibit key adaptations found in their counterparts in extant birds and mammals, especially their flattened polygonal geometry and fibrous cell contents," they wrote in their study.