Reptile scales share evolutionary origin with hair, feathers | Science News

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Reptile scales share evolutionary origin with hair, feathers

Skin bumps on lizards, crocodiles, snakes resolve confusing debate

2:01pm, June 24, 2016
scale development

IMPORTANT SPOTS  Tiny bumps (blue dots) on the skin of mammals, birds and reptiles point to shared ancestral structure of hair, feathers and scales. Mouse (far left), snake, chicken and Nile crocodile embryos shown.

Hair, scales and feathers arose from one ancestral structure, a new study finds.

Studies in fetal Nile crocodiles, bearded dragon lizards and corn snakes appear to have settled a long-standing debate on the rise of skin coverings. Special skin bumps long known to direct the development of hair in mammals and feathers in birds also turn out to signal scale growth in reptiles, implying all three structures evolved from a shared ancestor, scientists report online June 24 in Science Advances.

In embryonic birds and mammals, some areas of the skin thicken into raised bumps. Since birds evolved from ancient reptiles, scientists expected that modern snakes, lizards and crocodiles would have the same structures. A study at Yale University last year found that one protein already known to be important in hair and feather development is also active in

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