pic of Ethan Mooney holding a fossil

Ethan Mooney's 1st first paper published by Current Biology

Congratulations go to Ethan Mooney, MSc student, Reisz lab for publishing their 1st first authored paper in Current Biology:

Paleozoic cave system preserves oldest-known evidence of amniote skin

Mooney et al., 2024, Current Biology34, 1–10 January22, 2024ª2023 Elsevier Inc. 


The richest and most diverse assemblage of early terrestrial tetrapods is preserved within the infilled cave system of Richards Spur, Oklahoma (289-286 Mya1). Some of the oldest-known terrestrial amniotes2,3 are exquisitely preserved here because of early impregnation and encasement of organic material by oil seep hydrocarbons within rapidly deposited clay-rich cave sediments under toxic anoxic conditions.4 This phenomenon has also afforded the preservation of exceedingly rare integumentary soft tissues, reported here, providing critical first evidence into the anatomical changes marking the transition from the aquatic and semiaquatic lifestyles of anamniotes to the fully terrestrial lifestyles of early amniotes. This is the first record of a skin- cast fossil (3D carbonization of the skin proper) from the Paleozoic Era and the earliest known occurrence of epidermal integumentary structures. We also report on several compression fossils (carbonized skin impressions), all demonstrating similar external morphologies to extant crocodiles. A variety of previously unknown ossifications, as well as what are likely palpebral ossifications of the deeper dermis layer of the skin, are also documented. These fossils serve as invaluable references for paleontological reconstructions. Chromatographic analysis of extractable hydrocarbons from bone and cave samples indicates that the source rock is the Devonian age Woodford Shale. Hydrocarbons derived from ancient marine organisms interacting with geologically younger terrestrial vertebrates have therefore resulted in the oldest-known preservation of amniote skin proper. 

About Ethan Mooney

I did my Bachelors here at UTM and am a first year EEB masters student in the Reisz Lab focusing on all things paleontology with an interest in early amniotes.

picture from Ethan Mooney's paper


Read this paper »