Your browser has javascript turned off or blocked. This will lead to some parts of our website to not work properly or at all. Turn on javascript for best performance.

The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/windows/end-of-ie-support).

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

Johan Lindgren

Johan Lindgren

Senior lecturer

Johan Lindgren

Soft-tissue evidence for homeothermy and crypsis in a Jurassic ichthyosaur

Author

  • Johan Lindgren
  • Peter Sjövall
  • Volker Thiel
  • Wenxia Zheng
  • Shosuke Ito
  • Kazumasa Wakamatsu
  • Rolf Hauff
  • Benjamin P. Kear
  • Anders Engdahl
  • Carl Alwmark
  • Mats E. Eriksson
  • Martin Jarenmark
  • Sven Sachs
  • Per E. Ahlberg
  • Federica Marone
  • Takeo Kuriyama
  • Ola Gustafsson
  • Per Malmberg
  • Aurélien Thomen
  • Irene Rodríguez-Meizoso
  • Per Uvdal
  • Makoto Ojika
  • Mary H. Schweitzer

Summary, in English

Ichthyosaurs are extinct marine reptiles that display a notable external similarity to modern toothed whales. Here we show that this resemblance is more than skin deep. We apply a multidisciplinary experimental approach to characterize the cellular and molecular composition of integumental tissues in an exceptionally preserved specimen of the Early Jurassic ichthyosaur Stenopterygius. Our analyses recovered still-flexible remnants of the original scaleless skin, which comprises morphologically distinct epidermal and dermal layers. These are underlain by insulating blubber that would have augmented streamlining, buoyancy and homeothermy. Additionally, we identify endogenous proteinaceous and lipid constituents, together with keratinocytes and branched melanophores that contain eumelanin pigment. Distributional variation of melanophores across the body suggests countershading, possibly enhanced by physiological adjustments of colour to enable photoprotection, concealment and/or thermoregulation. Convergence of ichthyosaurs with extant marine amniotes thus extends to the ultrastructural and molecular levels, reflecting the omnipresent constraints of their shared adaptation to pelagic life.

Department/s

  • Lithosphere and Biosphere Science
  • MAX IV Laboratory
  • Lund Vision Group
  • Centre for Analysis and Synthesis
  • Chemical Physics

Publishing year

2018

Language

English

Pages

359-365

Publication/Series

Nature

Volume

564

Issue

7736

Document type

Journal article

Publisher

Nature Publishing Group

Topic

  • Geology

Status

Published

Research group

  • Lund Vision Group

ISBN/ISSN/Other

  • ISSN: 0028-0836