A piece of 50 million-year-old preserved lizard skin reveals how ancient animals lookedS

Using new infrared light techniques, scientists have at last been able to analyze the chemical composition of a piece of lizard skin, preserved for millions of years in dry rock. So what did these reptiles look like in pre-human times?

A piece of 50 million-year-old preserved lizard skin reveals how ancient animals lookedS

In these magnified pieces of the lizard skin, you can actually see cells and a nubbly texture to the skin surface. Yes, that's right - you are looking at cells that are 50 million years old - much, much older than even the most distant human ancestor. University of Manchester geochemist Roy Wogelius, who published about this research in the Royal Society B this week, told the BBC:

In fact, the chemical remains - in terms of the organic compounds - resemble very closely resemble what we get when we look at modern gecko skin. That means that some of the organic components have been conserved over that period of time.

Some of the trace metal chemistry is also original to the organism, and that give us hope in terms of understanding some bio-metallic complexes, in particular understanding the colouration and pigmentation of the skin.

A piece of 50 million-year-old preserved lizard skin reveals how ancient animals lookedS

So this creature would have looked sort of like a gecko. Does that mean it would have been brightly colored, the way so many geckos are? We'll find out more as the research continues.

Read the full scientific paper via Royal Society B