Powerful X-Rays Offer Answers About The Origin Of Our Skeletons

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The mystery about the origin of our skeleton has been around for 160 years, and no scientists were able to crack it. That was until now. Researchers from the University of Bristol and the University of Manchester managed to come up with some answers.

Scientists used powerful X-rays so they could peer inside the skeletons which belong to out oldest vertebrate relatives. The first evidence for the evolution of our skeletons was discovered in a group of fossil fishes which are known as heterostracans.

“Heterostracan skeletons are made of a really strange tissue called ‘aspidin’. It is crisscrossed by tiny tubes and does not closely resemble any of the tissues found in vertebrates today. For 160 years, scientists have wondered if aspidin is a transitional stage in the evolution of mineralized tissues,” explained Dr Joseph Keating from Manchester’s School of Earth of Environmental Scientists and the lead researcher of the study.

Normally, there are four types of tissues for vertebrates’ skeletons: dentine and enamel (teeth are made out of these) and bone and cartilage (human skeletons are made out of these).

A new point of view

The study is very important because it shows that aspidin is the first proof when it comes to bone in the fossil record and it finally revealed which tissue heterostracan skeletons were made from.  It also showed that the tiny tubes were initially used to house fibre-bundles of collagen.

“These findings change our view on the evolution of the skeleton. Aspidin was once thought to be the precursor of vertebrate mineralized tissues. We show that it is, in fact, a type of bone, and that all these tissues must have evolved millions of years earlier,” concluded co-author professor Phil Donoghue from the University of Bristol.


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