Prehistoric mammal hair discovered in Cretaceous amber

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London, June 16 (ANI): Palaeontologists have discovered two mammal hairs encased in amber that is a 100 million years old.

The oldest 3D specimens, found alongside a fly pupa in amber uncovered in southwest France, are remarkably similar to hair found on modern mammals, implying that the shape and structure of mammal hair has remained unchanged over the years. They have a very similar cuticular structure to those in modern mammals.

"We have 2D hair imprints as early as the Middle Jurassic," the BBC quoted Dr Romain Vullo of the University of Rennes, France, who discovered the hair, as saying.

"However, carbonised hair provides much less information about the structure than a 3D hair preserved in amber," Vullo added.

The piece of amber, which is fossilised tree resin, was found in the Font-de-Benon quarry at Archingeay-Les Nouillers in Charente-Maritime, southwest France. Above it, the team found four teeth of a primitive marsupial called Arcantiodelphys, to which the hair seems to belong, according to the team.

The researchers have cited three possibilities as to why the hair was encased in amber - Either amber swamped part of an animal's corpse, or a living animal that brushed past the resin lost the hair, or the hair was lost in a similar manner by a mammal that came to feed on insects trapped in the resin, which later fossilised into amber.

The details of the discovery are published in the journal Naturwissenschaften. (ANI)

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