Mammalian hairs in Early Cretaceous amber

Abstract

Two mammalian hairs have been found in association with an empty puparium in a ∼100-million-year-old amber (Early Cretaceous) from France. Although hair is known to be an ancestral, ubiquitous feature in the crown Mammalia, the structure of Mesozoic hair has never been described. In contrast to fur and hair of some Jurassic and Cretaceous mammals preserved as carbonized filaments, the exceptional preservation of the fossils described here allows for the study of the cuticular structure. Results show the oldest direct evidence of hair with a modern scale pattern. This discovery implies that the morphology of hair cuticula may have remained unchanged throughout most of mammalian evolution. The association of these hairs with a possible fly puparium provides paleoecological information and indicates peculiar taphonomic conditions.

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Acknowledgments

We thank M. Lak and V. Perrichot for discussion and D. Whipp for advice. C. Soriano and P. Tafforeau are also thanked for having attempted a virtual reconstruction of the fossil in phase contrast microtomography at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (Grenoble, France). This work is a contribution to the project AMBRACE (BLAN07-1-184190) of the French National Research Agency (ANR).

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Correspondence to Romain Vullo or Didier Néraudeau.

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Communicated by R. Reisz

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Vullo, R., Girard, V., Azar, D. et al. Mammalian hairs in Early Cretaceous amber. Naturwissenschaften 97, 683–687 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-010-0677-8

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Keywords

  • Mammal
  • Hair
  • Amber
  • Cretaceous
  • France