Scales, Feathers, and also HairThe term " integument " is applied to any outer extending of an animal. Basically, it method the skin, although countless scientists describe the exoskeleton that arthropods as an integument. One exoskeleton is a coating of difficult protein type substances that entierly sheathe the exterior of the animal. It provides a location for muscle attachment. The vertebrate skeleton is internal and also muscles connect from the outside. This permits larger development of the animal. Vertebrate pets have occurred some really interesting excrescences, or projections that the skin, some of which space well-known and easily oberved by many people. They room scales, feathers, and hair. Return these features are common among the most vertebrates, they are not every that usual in the animal world together a whole.

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The primary duty of the excrescences is protection and insulation. Claws, hooves, and also nails room other species of excrescences, yet do not carry out the pet with the complete body defense it it s okay from the 3 mainbody coverings. All, however, room made from special proteins. The major protein provided by vertebrates is keratin. It occurs as two forms: alpha (more pliable) and also beta (more stiff) keratin. The way in i beg your pardon the keratin is built at the molecule level is what determines the structure differences amongst the miscellaneous excrescences.


Scales happen on fishes and reptiles. Fish scales space made from much more than simply keratin. They are often obtained from bone in the deeper class of the skin (the center section of tissues dubbed the mesoderm), which are called the dermal layer. Some have a placoid scale the is formed from bone and covered through enamel, the same covering as the outer section of a human being tooth. Such scales space rough, spiny projections that give the surface ar of the fish a sandpaper-like feel.

A primitive type of scale is the ganoid scale . If this type of range was typical to fishes that lived hundreds of millions of years ago, now it is primarily found in a fish named the gar. Scale of this type are comparable to placoid scales, however have an extra coating of a very strong substance referred to as ganoin. That is also stronger than enamel and these gar-type scale are an extremely common in the fossil record. Lock are thought to have detailed a an excellent deal the protection against rocks and abrasive surfaces that fishes may have actually rubbed against. The is also feasible that they noted some protection against predators, since the scales make it very hard come bite v the skin of fishes. Countless scientists believe that the ganoid range is the precursor or original type scale that brought about tooth evolution.

The ctenoid scale is found in most contemporary fishes and is much lighter than the placoid or ganoid scale. Development rings are an exciting feature that a ctenoid scale. Under a microscope, small circular folds space apparent. There is some debate about the timing of the development rings. Some researchers once believed they were annual rings, but this has actually been disproved. The development rings show up with various timings amongst varieties of fishes and also there space still many questions around what the growth rings may indicate about the life of fishes.

In both fishes and also reptiles, the scale cover the entire body. The construction of reptile scales, however, is different. Both lizards and also snakes have scales over their whole bodies. Many types are established by the pattern the scales do on the head and body. Reptiles have progressed a unique layer in the skin from their aquatic ancestors. In order for reptiles to live totally free from water a waxy layer, the stratum corneum, evolved to save the animal from dry out top top land. These waxy great lie between the class that develop the keratin because that the scales. The scales are overlapping class of skin v an inner and outer coating. A distinctive adaptation is a basal hinge region from which the scales can be rather flexible and also fold earlier without fall off.

The stratum corneum, or cornified layer, contains beta keratin and also in some types both beta and alpha keratin. This offers strength come the scale, which allows reptiles to rise on rocks and slither along assorted surfaces such as gravel and also sand. As the pet grows, every so often epidermis (the external covering) is sloughed off throughout a procedure called shedding. A new epidermis forms and is, in turn, shed as the animal continues come grow.

There is a wide range of scale structures amongst reptile groups, including turtles and crocodiles that are occasionally excluded by researchers as true reptiles. Colors are accomplished by a wide range of pigments the are incorporated into the range or that lie in layers of the skin.


Feathers are amazing excrescences whose origins are not completely understood. It was once believed that just birds had actually feathers, but later research study revealed a to mark relationship in between dinosaurs and birds. This dispute has to be recently decreased with the detect of brand-new and necessary fossils in China. Scientists currently see a much closer relationship, if not actual descent, between birds and dinosaurs. Dinosaur fossils uncovered in China close to the end of the twentieth century revealed a skeleton i m sorry is plainly that that a dinosaur however which has impressions that feathers all over the body. The many fascinating discoveries began in the mid 1990s and is ongoing. The is straightforward to observe the relationship between birds and also dinosaurs and their modern reptile cousins through looking at a bird. A bird has actually scales over its legs and also have plenty of characters, consisting of skull and skeleton, the are an extremely reptilian. Lock are extremely modified scales composed of beta keratin.

A feather is a range in i m sorry a long facility shaft, the rachis, is the dominant feature. On either next of the shaft, the keratin is separated into small barbs that, under a microscope, look like the close-knit leaves of a fern. The barbs have tiny hooks, or hamuli, ~ above them, which aid the barbs affix to one another and also keep lock close to each other. These interlocked barbs are referred to as the vane that a feather.

There room three simple types that feathers. The contour feathers (tail and also flight feathers) space long and also used as an aerodynamic maker for flight. The plumules (down feathers) space for insulation to save the bird warm. Your barbs or barbules (smaller execution of barbs) are not carefully knit and also so the plumules show up fluffy. The feather is built somewhat favor a fern frond. Over there are major barbs that come that a sturdy shaft. The smaller sized barbules arise from the barbs and aid hold the feather in shape by interlocking the barbs. This design is critical for maintaining the feather sturdy throughout flight. The hair feathers (filoplumes) space not as fluffy as the down, however are still supplied for insulation.

Bird feathers are composed that beta keratin. They happen in tracts along the bird"s skin referred to as pterylae . This tracts are conveniently seen ~ above plucked chickens or turkeys provided for food. That surprises many civilization to learn that the entire bird is not covered with feathers.


Hair is one of the most acquainted excrescences, since humans are endowed v varying quantities of it. The is a characteristic of mammals. Hair or fur is make from beta keratin and also grows from follicles located almost everywhere the epidermis. Its primary duty is to provide insulation because that the animal to store it warm. However, there are several kinds the hair that provide sensory functions. Whiskers, or vibrissae, are located at areas near a mammal"s head. The root of the vibrissae are associated to sensory nerves that room sensitive come movement and so aid the pet to recognize its environment.

The structure of hair is different from the of scales and also feathers. A hair is usually a cone of keratin the is derived from keratinized cell in the dermis, or middle layers of skin. The hair is generated and formed in a pit in the skin called the follicle. The hair has an inner and also outer sheath. Near the base of each hair attached come the follicle is a little muscle, called an erector pilli. As soon as stimulated, this muscle contracts and also pulls the hair directly up. In humans this condition is dubbed goose bumps. Castle come as an outcome of the tightening of the skin which helps prevent warmth loss. That serves as a warning gesture in cats and also dogs and other mammals.

As in most pets with scales and feathers, the lose of hair is cyclic. The hefty winter coats the many pets are burned in spring and also replaced by lighter summer ones. Shedding may occur again in loss when a warmer cloak is needed.

Whatever the excrescence, the variety and shade of scales, feathers, and hair make watching pets a pleasant activity. The range of patterns and also structures continually provide a wonderful display screen of life ~ above earth.

see likewise Keratin.

Brook Ellen Hall


Hildebrand, Milton. Evaluation of Vertebrate Structure. Brand-new York: man Wiley, 1998.

Moyle, Peter, and also Joseph Cech Jr. Fishes: An advent to Ichthyology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1992.

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Sloan, Christopher. Feathered Dinosaurs. Washington, D.C.: National geographical Society, 1999.