Thursday, July 28, 2016

Reptile scales share evolutionary origin with hair, feathers

       Hair, feathers and scales all beginning their development the same way. Doesn't sound all that realistic does it? Well that's exactly what people all around the world thought, maybe even some of the scientists who made the discovery, up until this breakthrough. Using very powerful microscopes and cell staining, just like we did in biology, the research team at the University of Geneva discovered that just like mammals and birds, reptile embryos also develop thicker areas of skin where scales are going to grow. It would be easy to expect that all animals undergo that process, but what was keeping scientists from the discovery was how quickly the wider areas of skin appeared and then disappeared. Michel Milinkovitch, the lead researcher at the lab in Geneva,  puts it simply when he says, "Then boom, you see them, and you’re like, 'Whoa, they are exactly the same.'"
        Bumpy skin on unborn animals might not seem like the most exciting discovery ever made, but what it shows is that the three different types of animals all received their genes for skin coatings from a similar ancestor. The ancestor itself may be very difficult to pin point however, due to the fact that mammals, birds and reptiles all came into existence millions of years ago and fossils are few and far between. More research is needed to say exactly what structure the three types of coverings come from, but if the facts are unearthed then it may help to piece together a long chain of evolutionary steps from the very beginning of life on dry land.
        This article was very interesting and made me really sit down and think about the fact that all living things share some evolutionary traits. The fact that three completely different skin coverings could all start off in about the same way is fascinating. It really makes me wonder what other body parts have similarities across the board in the animal kingdom. There are the obvious comparisons to be made between humans and apes, but I'd like to know what my eyes have in common with a fish's or something along those lines. This has even made me want to look around the Internet for other articles that show the same evolutionary background between living things. I hope that I'm able to find something even more interesting than just hair, feathers and scales.