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Skin pigmentation provides evidence of convergent melanism in extinct marine reptiles.

Lindgren, Johan LU ; Sjövall, Peter; Carney, Ryan M; Uvdal, Per LU ; Gren, Johan LU ; Dyke, Gareth; Schultz, Bo Pagh; Shawkey, Matthew D; Barnes, Kenneth R and Polcyn, Michael J (2014) In Nature 506(7489). p.484-484
Abstract
Throughout the animal kingdom, adaptive colouration serves critical functions ranging from inconspicuous camouflage to ostentatious sexual display, and can provide important information about the environment and biology of a particular organism. The most ubiquitous and abundant pigment, melanin, also has a diverse range of non-visual roles, including thermoregulation in ectotherms. However, little is known about the functional evolution of this important biochrome through deep time, owing to our limited ability to unambiguously identify traces of it in the fossil record. Here we present direct chemical evidence of pigmentation in fossilized skin, from three distantly related marine reptiles: a leatherback turtle, a mosasaur and an... (More)
Throughout the animal kingdom, adaptive colouration serves critical functions ranging from inconspicuous camouflage to ostentatious sexual display, and can provide important information about the environment and biology of a particular organism. The most ubiquitous and abundant pigment, melanin, also has a diverse range of non-visual roles, including thermoregulation in ectotherms. However, little is known about the functional evolution of this important biochrome through deep time, owing to our limited ability to unambiguously identify traces of it in the fossil record. Here we present direct chemical evidence of pigmentation in fossilized skin, from three distantly related marine reptiles: a leatherback turtle, a mosasaur and an ichthyosaur. We demonstrate that dark traces of soft tissue in these fossils are dominated by molecularly preserved eumelanin, in intimate association with fossilized melanosomes. In addition, we suggest that contrary to the countershading of many pelagic animals, at least some ichthyosaurs were uniformly dark-coloured in life. Our analyses expand current knowledge of pigmentation in fossil integument beyond that of feathers, allowing for the reconstruction of colour over much greater ranges of extinct taxa and anatomy. In turn, our results provide evidence of convergent melanism in three disparate lineages of secondarily aquatic tetrapods. Based on extant marine analogues, we propose that the benefits of thermoregulation and/or crypsis are likely to have contributed to this melanisation, with the former having implications for the ability of each group to exploit cold environments. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
in
Nature
volume
506
issue
7489
pages
484 - 484
publisher
Nature Publishing Group
external identifiers
  • pmid:24402224
  • wos:000332165100037
  • scopus:84896720416
ISSN
0028-0836
DOI
10.1038/nature12899
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
a98866c4-d6e5-41a3-b173-7e5c5fef2ade (old id 4291843)
date added to LUP
2014-02-12 17:08:17
date last changed
2017-11-19 03:11:06
@article{a98866c4-d6e5-41a3-b173-7e5c5fef2ade,
  abstract     = {Throughout the animal kingdom, adaptive colouration serves critical functions ranging from inconspicuous camouflage to ostentatious sexual display, and can provide important information about the environment and biology of a particular organism. The most ubiquitous and abundant pigment, melanin, also has a diverse range of non-visual roles, including thermoregulation in ectotherms. However, little is known about the functional evolution of this important biochrome through deep time, owing to our limited ability to unambiguously identify traces of it in the fossil record. Here we present direct chemical evidence of pigmentation in fossilized skin, from three distantly related marine reptiles: a leatherback turtle, a mosasaur and an ichthyosaur. We demonstrate that dark traces of soft tissue in these fossils are dominated by molecularly preserved eumelanin, in intimate association with fossilized melanosomes. In addition, we suggest that contrary to the countershading of many pelagic animals, at least some ichthyosaurs were uniformly dark-coloured in life. Our analyses expand current knowledge of pigmentation in fossil integument beyond that of feathers, allowing for the reconstruction of colour over much greater ranges of extinct taxa and anatomy. In turn, our results provide evidence of convergent melanism in three disparate lineages of secondarily aquatic tetrapods. Based on extant marine analogues, we propose that the benefits of thermoregulation and/or crypsis are likely to have contributed to this melanisation, with the former having implications for the ability of each group to exploit cold environments.},
  author       = {Lindgren, Johan and Sjövall, Peter and Carney, Ryan M and Uvdal, Per and Gren, Johan and Dyke, Gareth and Schultz, Bo Pagh and Shawkey, Matthew D and Barnes, Kenneth R and Polcyn, Michael J},
  issn         = {0028-0836},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {7489},
  pages        = {484--484},
  publisher    = {Nature Publishing Group},
  series       = {Nature},
  title        = {Skin pigmentation provides evidence of convergent melanism in extinct marine reptiles.},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature12899},
  volume       = {506},
  year         = {2014},
}