On the Microscale: Dorsal Snakeskin Microstructure Variation



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The surface layer of snake scales produces patterns and textures called microstructures visible only at high magnifications. They are highly variable and responsible for snakeskin’s hydrophobicity, structural color, and frictional properties. Past research has used snake shed or wet preserved skins to study these microstructures as opposed to tanned skins. Additionally, little research has been done on the microstructures formed by keratinocytes found between the snake scales and in the hinge region. We used SEM to image the anterior, middle, and posterior dorsal snakeskin microstructures of eight different snake species. We compared the scale microstructures to currently published microstructure research SEM photos and between body regions. We compared inter-scale keratinocytes between species and body regions. We found similar scale microstructures on our tanned skins to other published research. There was some variation between scale microstructure and body region. Inter-scale keratinocytes were very round for all species but varied in size across species. There was no variation in size or circularity between body regions. Tanned skin is useful for SEM research. There is more regional variation of scale microstructures than previously described. Keratinocyte characterization and how its diversity relates to microstructure would be an interest area for further research.



Snake, Microstructure, SEM, Scanning Electron Microscope, Snakeskin, Snake Scale, Keratinocyte, Reptile