Friday, 16 October 2015

Cretaceous Fur Ball: Ancient Mammal With Spiky Hair Discovered

by Elizabeth Palermo, Associate Editor | October 15, 2015 07:45am ET

The fossilized remains of a furry critter that once roamed the Earth alongside dinosaurs suggests that mammals have been growing hair the same way for at least 125 million years.

Discovered in 2011, the bones of the prehistoric mammal Spinolestes xenarthrosus are a "spectacular find," said Zhe-Xi Luo, a professor of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago and one of the authors of a new study about the hair-growing tendencies of this "Cretaceous fur ball."

The Spinolestes specimen is special because it was fossilized with so many of its parts intact, Luo told Live Science in an email. The animal's hair, dermal scutes (platelike structures made of skin keratin) and spines (similar to the spines of a hedgehog) are all preserved with "exquisite detail all the way down to the microscopic scales forming the hair shafts, the hair bulbs in the skin and microtubules that make up the spines," Luo said. 

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