Oldest Known Three-Dimensional Remnant of Mammal Hair

on June 19, 2010

BBC News: “Prehistoric Mammal Hair Found in Cretaceous AmberScientists have discovered the oldest known three-dimensional remnant of mammal hair.

Dated at 100 million years old, the two mammal hairs are entombed in amber (fossilized resin from ancient trees) next to a fly pupa. The amber was found in southwest France by Romain Vullo of the University of Rennes; its contents were studied by Vullo and colleagues Didier Neraudeau and Vincent Girard.

The scientists do not know what animal left the hair.

According to the scientists, the three-dimensional structure of the hair shows it to be incredibly similar to modern mammal hair—implying, as BBC News reports, that “the shape and structure of mammal hair has remained unchanged over a vast period of time.”

The scientists do not know what animal left the hair, nor how it became encased in amber, though they have some ideas. For example, an animal may have brushed by a tree, with resin becoming smeared in its fur.

Of course, there’s an interpretation of the discovery other than that mammal hair has remained unchanged over millions of years: that the resin encasing the hair (and the hair itself) aren’t millions of years old, but rather thousands of years old—and that the mammal whose hair was stuck in the resin was very similar to mammals today. That interpretation is at least as consistent with the evidence as the old-ages interpretation, and it makes more sense given the tenets of creation and evolution.

The same conclusion holds for a new book about other remains preserved in amber. “In one amber fossil, a 100-million-year-old gecko shows the same sophisticated method of toe adhesion that allows it to walk easily on vertical and even inverted surfaces—a capability that served it well when it was skittering away from dinosaurs then, or is skipping through the jungles of Southeast Asia today,” reports the Corvallis (Oregon) Gazette Times.

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