Ichthyosaurs are the most publicized of the extinct marine reptiles not least because they have a striking resemblance to modern dolphins.

A complex fibre system in the skin of ichthyosaurs also bears close similarities with that of fast swimming dolphins, sharks and tuna. In the modern-day groups this fibre meshwork comprises stiff collagen fibres, which maximize skin smoothness and body stiffness and increase swimming efficiency.

However, because of the scarcity of fossilized ichthyosaur soft-tissue it was impractical to investigate the molecular nature of even a single fibre - till now.

We investigated, using the latest electron microscope, the ultrastructure of preserved skin fibres in a 200 million year old Jurassic ichthyosaur and showed the 67 *nanometer wide D-bands of the fibrils, unique to collagen, the first such finding in an ichthyosaur, indeed in the skin of any fossil vertebrate. One billionth of a meter.

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

Proceedings B is the Royal Society's flagship biological research journal, dedicated to the rapid publication and broad dissemination of high-quality research papers, reviews and comment and reply papers. The scope of journal is diverse and is especially strong in organismal biology

Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

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