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Scientists Examine Dinosaur Skin

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the beyond-wrinkled dept.

Science 96

jd writes "Fossilized skin from a dinosaur in China is allowing paleontologists a better understanding of what dinosaur skin was like. A tear, caused by a predator, shows that below the scales of the Psittacosaurus was a thick hide comprised of 25 layers of collagen. Other than the multitude of layers, this is very similar in nature to modern shark skin. The gash caused by a predator allowed the skin and the soft interior to be fossilized along with the bones. This is not the same dinosaur that had been reported previously on Slashdot, which was found in South Dakota, although the process and extent of fossilization is very similar."

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96 comments

Interesting (1)

Shadow-isoHunt (1014539) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980628)

It's interesting to me that over the millions of years of evolution life has gone through, we're still using the same basic outlines for anatomy.

Re:Interesting (3, Interesting)

clsours (1089711) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980658)

Well, evolution isn't really all that good at creating new things, but is very good at retaining good designs.

Re:Interesting (5, Informative)

Tatisimo (1061320) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980852)

Reading the 'Origin of Species' gives great insight into those ideas. It's gives pretty interesting explanations (though a bit outdated) on why some species seem to revert to old forms (such as why whales look like fish), and why some useful features stay the same through the ages seemingly unchanged. Go on, get it and take it one idea at a time. It's available to everyone as a free audiobook [librivox.org] or free text [gutenberg.org]

Re:Interesting (4, Interesting)

WiFiBro (784621) | more than 6 years ago | (#21981718)

Additionaly "Climbing Mount Improbable" by Richard Dawkins gives a great overview of the various eye in the animal kingdom. Interesting bits are how the eye apparently developed along several lines, and how a choice made early in evolution can hardly be undone, such as the blood vessels being in front of the retina in the eyes of vertrebrates. (Or wait, God did that to protect the retina.)

Re:Interesting (1)

Empiric (675968) | more than 6 years ago | (#21983880)

Alternately, both premises are true concurrently.

Just thought I'd mention it, because I know how Dawkins loves his false dichotomy fallacies.

Re:Interesting (2, Interesting)

gnick (1211984) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980886)

Well put - This is certainly interesting, but it would have been more surprising to learn that they had some completely different and unique skin structure. Sharks and many reptiles have been around a helluva long time because they're very well adapted to their niches.
---
On a side note, I find it pleasantly surprising that Firefox's spell-check happily accepted 'helluva'.

Re:Interesting (4, Funny)

theMerovingian (722983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980938)


A tear, caused by a predator, shows that below the scales of the Psittacosaurus was a thick hide comprised of 25 layers of collagen.

It's like I always say, 25 layers of collagen just isn't enough if you can't outrun your predators.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21981554)

A tear, caused by a predator, shows that below the scales of the Psittacosaurus was a thick hide comprised of 25 layers of collagen.

>> It's like I always say, 25 layers of collagen just isn't enough if you can't outrun your predators.


It could hardly move at all with all that extra padding.

I guess you could say it was a Psitting duck for predators...

Re:Interesting (1)

Ilan Volow (539597) | more than 6 years ago | (#21982080)

Duh. Predators tend to prefer the extremely young, the extremely old, or prey with excessive lip enhancement. You should watch more Animal Planet.

Re:Interesting (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#21981150)

Other than the multitude of layers, this is very similar in nature to modern shark skin.
A bit like the skin of a Vista versus an Expi, or a Leopard and Tiger, or a Gibbon and a Faun.

Re:Interesting (4, Informative)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 6 years ago | (#21981170)

First, life has gone through BILLIONS of years, not just million. Secondly, mammals and reptiles are very closely related. And finaly, (almost ?) all multicellular species that existed in the last 2 billion years use collagen to make their cells stick together.

Re:Interesting (1)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 6 years ago | (#21982138)

Yes but life is Millions of years old, as well as Billions. Get enough Millions and you start getting billions.

Re:Interesting (1)

dissy (172727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21982216)

Yes but life is Millions of years old, as well as Billions. Get enough Millions and you start getting billions.
But isnt that like saying you are only a year old. Get enough years and you start getting to your real age?

Re:Interesting (1)

LordMidge (861667) | more than 6 years ago | (#21982412)

Nope due to the judicious use of a 's'.

What it would be like saying is.

'But isn't that like saying you are only years old. Get enough years and you start getting to your real age?'

And that finished this quite pointless post.

Re:Interesting (2, Informative)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 6 years ago | (#21983674)

First, life has gone through BILLIONS of years, not just million. Secondly, mammals and reptiles are very closely related. And finaly, (almost ?) all multicellular species that existed in the last 2 billion years use collagen to make their cells stick together.

That's a little misleading. Yes life has been around for billions of years but only primitive celled organisms and bacteria. Thefirst complex life including the first fishes, corals, trilobites and shellfish only appeared in the Cabrian period which started about 570 million years ago. Mammals and dinosaurs came much later.

Re:Interesting (1)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 6 years ago | (#21984482)

Yes, but the OP seemed to generalize from the common points between dinausors that existed roughly 100 million years ago and modern mammals to some kind of universality. Repiles and mammals share a lot of things (in particular general anatomy) because they have a not so distant common ancestor (and the differences beside milk production are not that absolute: the platypus lays eggs while some reptiles are warm-blooded or take care of their offspring.

Re:Interesting (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 6 years ago | (#21987238)

Yes and some fish lay eggs while others have live birth. And these fish aren't completely different either - they are similar size and live in similar conditions.

Re:Interesting (2, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#21986022)

This is incorrect. The first complex multicellular life (excluding various colonial bacteria and the like, which have been around a lot longer) appear in the Ediacaran period about 600-610 million years ago. It's an all-too-common myth that the Cambrian Explosion represents the origins of such life.

Re:Interesting (1)

fireforadrymouth (1064330) | more than 6 years ago | (#21991546)

The first complex life including the first fishes, corals, trilobites and shellfishes only appeared in the Cambrian period which started about 542 (±1) Ma
There, fixed that for you.

Re:Interesting (4, Funny)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 6 years ago | (#21981292)

More interesting is a question how much earlier than europeans chinese began fossilizing their dinosaurs

Re:Interesting (2, Funny)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 6 years ago | (#21981952)

Not surprising if you've ever been to a market in chinatown. They are very much into preserving animals of all kinds in as many ways as possible.

Re:Interesting (1)

Airline_Sickness_Bag (111686) | more than 6 years ago | (#21986296)

Not surprising if you've ever been to a market in chinatown. They are very much into preserving animals of all kinds in as many ways as possible.

Shouldn't that be "serving" and not "preserving"?

Re:Interesting (2, Informative)

Morty (32057) | more than 6 years ago | (#21981470)

It's interesting to me that over the millions of years of evolution life has gone through, we're still using the same basic outlines for anatomy.

100 million years is the recent past, in evolutionary terms. See the Timeline of evolution [wikipedia.org] .
Single-celled life evolved about 4 billion years ago. The even bigger leap to multi-celled life was 1 billion years ago. By 100 million years ago, we already had all the big developments except human brains: plants, fish, insects, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds, and flowers. So 100 million years ago isn't that old, in evolutionary terms.

Re:Interesting (1)

whereiswaldo (459052) | more than 6 years ago | (#21994980)

You might find this page intriguing:

  http://www.bible.ca/tracks/taylor-trail.htm [bible.ca]

Sample:

"Here is a photo of the Paluxy River in Glen Rose Texas. This rapidly flowing river runs through the middle of Dinosaur Valley State Park, famous for its dinosaur tracks. Not as well known is the fact that human tracks have also been found, not only in the same formation, but on the same bedding plane and in some cases overlapping the dinosaur tracks."

Re:Interesting (1)

Raenex (947668) | more than 6 years ago | (#22011994)

You might find this page interesting:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/paluxy/tsite.html [talkorigins.org]

Sample:

"Since the above article was published in early 1986 most creationists have largely abandoned the "man track" claims regarding the Taylor Site and most other Paluxy sites. However, in 1987 Carl Baugh and Don Patton began making claims that the Taylor Tracks were dinosaur tracks with human tracks within them. Such claims have been found to be as unsupported by the evidence as the original "man track" claims, and are reviewed in my article 'Retracking Those Incredible Man Tracks.'"

Re:Interesting (1)

comradeeroid (1048432) | more than 6 years ago | (#21981648)

It's interesting to me that over the millions of years of evolution life has gone through, we're still using the same basic outlines for anatomy.
Which basically tells us how great those outlines are. Why would evolution mess with something that's so beautifully adaptive to the environment?

Re:Interesting (1)

mofag (709856) | more than 6 years ago | (#21983760)

Its interesting to me that they can't just go take a shower after masturbating, like normal people. Why do they have to "examine" their "dinosaur skin"?

Re:Interesting (1)

dashslotter (1093743) | more than 6 years ago | (#21985318)

Actually, the millions of years between the dinosaurs and now aren't really that much in terms of our entire evolutionary history.

Re:Interesting (1)

ChrisA90278 (905188) | more than 6 years ago | (#21985534)

It's interesting to me that over the millions of years of evolution life has gone through, we're still using the same basic outlines for anatomy.

The reason we think this is because of our perspective. Stand back and look and then it's different. Live has existed on earth for maybe 4 billion years. Dinosaurs lived 160 million years ago. 160 million yeas is only four percent of the total time life has existed on Earth.

Food Nerd Alert (2, Interesting)

Misanthrope (49269) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980662)

Imagine the amount of gelatin dinosaur stock would contain, it'd put veal shanks to shame.

Re:Food Nerd Alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21981048)

Tastes like chicken.

Well, what do you expect. Dinosaurs and chickens are close relatives.

Found in China? (1)

Solra Bizna (716281) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980674)

When I read the summary my first thought was "it could be a fake" [paleodirect.com] .

-:sigma.SB

Re:Found in China? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21981318)

They'd better hide it because dinosaur skin is a well known remedy for bladder infections.

Re:Found in China? (1)

rve (4436) | more than 6 years ago | (#21981462)

Exactly my thought.

A remarkable fossil fetches the finder many times the average annual income of that region, while a 'common' fossil isn't worth all that much. The temptation is just too great for an artist to resist 'improving' a common fossil.

It's an ancient tradition too, in the colonial age, traders sometimes brought back stuffed unicorns and mermaids bought in China. For this reason, when the first stuffed Platypus was sent back to Europe, the sample was first assumed to be a Chinese fake.

Please (-1, Offtopic)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980692)

I'm aware that I'm gonna get modded off-topic, but could we for once just because I'm asking avoid making any "But [...] the Earth [...] only 6,000 years old/ago!" jokes please?

I was about to make that joke (1)

427_ci_505 (1009677) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980768)

You insensitive clod.

Re:I was about to make that joke (4, Funny)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980880)

Great, thanks! Cause every time someone jokes about creationism, God goes back to the Jurassic and kills a dinosaur!

Re:I was about to make that joke (2)

CodyRazor (1108681) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980936)

Quick! make all the jokes you can, then we'll have more fossils to study and mabye even clone!

That's right, I just outsmarted god.

Re:I was about to make that joke (4, Funny)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 6 years ago | (#21981114)

What do you think God was doing when dinosaurs are joking about creationism?

Right... and we're clever indeed...

Re:I was about to make that joke (1)

Empiric (675968) | more than 6 years ago | (#21984026)

Probably contentedly realizing that it's psychologically impossible for humans to indefinitely continue to define "creationism" as "the straw-man combination of whatever the worst theistic argument I can find is, along with the idea God exists, by which I non-sequitur the supposed refutation of the second part, by the supposed refutation of the non-determinative first part". Sure, it's all packaged in one convenient word, but the irrationality of irrational usage of the term becomes clear as soon as its used in that way.

If Aristotle didn't make it clear how to form a valid concept, one's own sense of one's inability to evade what they themselves know (by reference to their own clear motivation) will... eventually.

Re:I was about to make that joke (1)

Conanymous Award (597667) | more than 6 years ago | (#21981868)

"Great, thanks! Cause every time someone jokes about creationism, God goes back to the Jurassic and kills a dinosaur!"

Creationism being the joke that it is, I think you have now truly found out the reason why dinosaurs died out!

As for this being a fake, well, as far as I know faked fossils are not that common, even from China. With this I mean fossils (or items considered to be such) that are the subject of serious research - "normal" fake fossils are sold to gullible tourists everywhere. (For a great piece on this, read S. J. Gould's The Lying Stones of Marrakech.)

Of course, the other reason scientists are fooled by fake fossils so rarely could be that the fakes are so meticulously created that they haven't been found out to be fakes. But to forge something like the microscopic structure of dinosaur skin would be foolishly laborous ie. not profitable. I don't think a Professionally Forged Fossil FactoryTM would be a great business idea...

Re:Please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21981136)

you do realize that by asking /.ers not to joke about it they're now going to pelt this thread with exactly those kind of jokes right?

Re:Please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21990116)

But what would the thirteen year olds post about without 6000 year jokes? They'd actually have to write something (gulp) new and original.

Suddenly? (3, Interesting)

shmackie (1049632) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980704)

How was the flesh preserved, and not eaten by microbes?
Suddenly covered by sediment seems like odd explanation.

Like there was all of a sudden a large amount of water full of particulates put on top of this land dwelling animal. Then allowed to settle.
Weird

Re:Suddenly? (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980782)

How was the flesh preserved, and not eaten by microbes? Suddenly covered by sediment seems like odd explanation.

If this was Trek, I would propose interference from tachyon particles as the culprit.
     

Re:Suddenly? (2, Funny)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980834)

How was the flesh preserved, and not eaten by microbes? Suddenly covered by sediment seems like odd explanation.
The dinosaur was probably buried by his kin after his death. I'm sure the culprit was arrested afterwards and brought to justice...

Re:Suddenly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21980844)

Like there was all of a sudden a large amount of water full of particulates put on top of this land dwelling animal. Then allowed to settle. Weird

It happens all the time in Japanese porn. (so I hear)

Re:Suddenly? (2, Insightful)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 6 years ago | (#21982040)

It may seem like an odd explanation, but keep in mind that fossils are ridiculously rare. If it weren't for freak accidents we wouldn't have any fossils at all.

Re:Suddenly? (1)

hhas (990942) | more than 6 years ago | (#21983638)

"Like there was all of a sudden a large amount of water full of particulates put on top of this land dwelling animal."

Must've missed that memo from Noah.

Re:Suddenly? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 6 years ago | (#21983876)

Fossil finds do seem a little suspicious lately. Someone points out that the display at a museum is actually the bones from several species, then *poof*, someone digs up an intact skeleton. Someone starts a debate about dinosaurs having feathers, and then *poof*, someone finds fossil feathers. Someone makes a movie about dinosaur DNA, and then a year or two later, *poof*, soft tissue remains. And what's up with dinosaur footprints? Mountain ranges came and eroded away, oceans have wandered around, yet there wasn't enough activity to fill in a footprint? A hundred years of plant growth would probably be enough. But, NO. These footprints are on a riverbank, which in the millions of years since the dinosaur stepped in the mud, has not flooded, or eroded, or been overgrown. It seems suspicious to me. (Not that I'm a young earther/intelligent design kook. I'm just sceptical.)

Re:Suddenly? (1)

omris (1211900) | more than 6 years ago | (#21985790)

it's not QUITE that bad, but archaeology has always been more in the eye of the beholder than some science branches. the things they are looking at are so easy to miss, that you'd never see them if you weren't thinking to look. very carefully. whereas before we assumed that funky swirl pattern was nothing , once the idea of it being the imprint of a feather is proposed, it becomes easier to notice the things that were probably there all along and missed.

it's important to remember that fossils are RARE. there are lots of them, but the percentage of things that are fossilized rather than decaying completely is incredably small. it isn't as if we have loads of footprints from lots of dinosaurs that pop up everywhere. it's more like, everyonce in a while, in one spot, the conditions will be right to make that happen. so the dinosaur stepped in mud on a riverbank that was mostly clay. they there was a dry spell and it dried out fairly well. then there was a flash flood, and murky plant matter was dumped en masse on top of the clay. now you have a sediment layer with a clear border between the upper and lower layers. and since it got covered quickly, the upper surface of the lower layer is a relatively clear snapshot of that riverbank right before the second silt deposit. this is also why a specific type of fossil (like footprints) will be found profusely in one area. you rarely find one isolated print. you get a large area (say the size of a riverbank) covered in that type of fossil. once they have a few million years to actually become rock, the archaeologist gets to try to carefully pry apart the two layers, and interpret the image in between.

since the difference between the two types of rock are subtle at best, they are open to misinterpretation. knowing this, they will try to use what knowledge they have to help determine where the actual border is based on what they can see. when that knowledge base is discovered to be flawed, changes have to be made in everything that came after that.

i'd like to think that it isn't so much that the scientists are just making stuff up. more that they are trying to honestly use a very mutable system to interpret their data. as in any field, there are people who will abuse it to serve their own purpose. i just like to think that they are in the small minority.

Re:Suddenly? (2, Informative)

micromuncher (171881) | more than 6 years ago | (#21986532)

There are lots of environmental conditions that can discourage decomposition. Cold, pressure, alkalinity, acidity, salinity, [lack of] humidity, etc. Think of bogs and bitumen (tar pits).

Duplisaurus Paranoidus (5, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980760)

This is not the same dinosaur that had been reported previously on Slashdot

Somebody's a bit sensitive about dupes ;-)
       

Not the dinosaur (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21981486)

"This is not the dinosaur you're looking for."

Dinosaurs: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21980818)

bunch of lizard niggers!

I for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21980874)

welcome our younger-looking, collagen infused overlords.

same as shark skin? (4, Funny)

DreamerFi (78710) | more than 6 years ago | (#21980916)

You mean we can mount a frikking laser on them?

Re:same as shark skin? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21982340)

No. Dinosaurs (Tyrannosaurs in particular) are better equipped for flying fighter jets.

Re:same as shark skin? (1)

Petaris (771874) | more than 6 years ago | (#21983706)

Can you imagine Vilociraptors with lasers on their heads? Scarry Sorry, couldn't help myself. ;)

Saddle? (1, Funny)

aaronfaby (741318) | more than 6 years ago | (#21981278)

Did they find the saddle that Jesus used to ride the dinosaur?

Re:Saddle? (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 6 years ago | (#22011844)

When Jesus used to ride dinosaurs, he used a Trojan.

(I was trying to figure out why the condom machine in the restaurant we used this evening bore the slogan "Trojan - America's #1 condoms". I get that it's a trademark, but what associations were the marketing people trying to get between sex and the Trojans?
"Have sex like people who've been dead for about 3000 years"?
"Fuck like the losers"?
"Fuck like an adulterer who died for his squeeze"?
"These condoms are as comfortable as a brass helmet on the end of your dick"?
Something about that advertising campaign didn't cross the Atlantic successfully.)

And to think... (2, Funny)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#21981386)

How wonderful to consider that this animal's descendants walk among us to this very day. Chubby, piggish little creatures. Omnivorous. Voracious. Almost invulnerable due to their incredibly tough skin. Scavenging when they must, picking off a vulnerable or unwary victim when they can.

We call them "lawyers".

you FLAiL it! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21981432)

Member. GNNA (GAY are 7000 users (I alwa7s bring my Recruitment, but

I am now pissing on your face. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21981530)

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Your comment violated CmdrTaco's anus. Try less vicious anal pounding and/or less lubrication. Human-shit hybrid rape-baby aborted.

CHICKEN FUCKING NUGGETS, NIGGA!

heh. (0, Redundant)

apodyopsis (1048476) | more than 6 years ago | (#21981612)

I don't know which is more appropriate.... "thats a mighty fine and intelligent piece of design there god" "well done, marvelously detailed and cunningly hidden fossil, we almost fell for that one"

Thats Cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21981752)

Hmm it wll take a bit more time to read it and understand.

Dakota (3, Informative)

Cemu (968469) | more than 6 years ago | (#21982870)

...which was found in South Dakota.
North Dakota. The article previously covered was found in North Dakota. For those of you who have never been there before, there is a difference - not just geographically either.

Re:Dakota (0, Flamebait)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 6 years ago | (#21985074)

North Dakota. The article previously covered was found in North Dakota. For those of you who have never been there before, there is a difference - not just geographically either.

For a country whose inhabitants can't largely identify Canada and Mexico on a map, this small distinction seems pretty irrelevant, eh?

Re:Dakota (1)

Cemu (968469) | more than 6 years ago | (#21985358)

Yeah, I unfortunately hear your argument. But for those of us from North Dakota we take pride in our state, even if what comes from it is millions of years old.

Re:Dakota (1)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#21995162)

My mother is from North Dakota, so naturally I deny it exists. :)

Re:Dakota (1)

Cemu (968469) | more than 6 years ago | (#21997892)

Dude, so am I! I probably know her...

Re:Dakota (1)

jd (1658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22007452)

Very likely, if you're in the areas of Bismarck or Jamestown - doubly so if you know families that moved over from Norway or Poland in the 1800s. If your last name is Wyngarden or Woychick, you probably don't just know my mother but are probably a long-lost cousin.

Wrong Dakota (1)

ari_j (90255) | more than 6 years ago | (#21983098)

Just a correction: The dinosaur mummy that was previously reported on Slashdot a couple weeks ago was found in North Dakota. I repeat my assurances that these two states are separate and that every article and TV program about that dinosaur that I was aware of got it right, except Slashdot.

So what was this gash caused by? (1)

Mikya (901578) | more than 6 years ago | (#21983834)

I'm under the impression it was caused by a predator of some sort but I could use another confirmation just to be sure.

Re:So what was this gash caused by? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21984376)

Interestingly, reports indicate that the gashes were caused by Chuck Norris' fists.
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