For the first time, research team diagnosed a bone containing signs of cancer in the fossil record of a dinosaur. Dinosaurs suffered from aggressive malignant bone cancer osteosarcoma that afflicts humans today.
The specimen collected was from fossilized shin bone from Centrosaurus apertus. Centrosaurus apertus was a plant-eating dinosaur that lived 76 to 77 million years ago.
In 1989, researchers discovered a badly-deformed lower leg bone of a Centrosaurus apertus in Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada. The fossil specimen is from an adult dinosaur with an advanced stage of cancer. Scientists originally presumed it to be a poorly healed fracture.
Seper Ekhtiari, an orthopedic surgery resident on the team, said, “It is both fascinating and inspiring to see a similar multidisciplinary effort that we use in diagnosing and treating osteosarcoma in our patients leading to the first diagnosis of osteosarcoma in a dinosaur,”
“This discovery reminds us of the common biological links throughout the animal kingdom and reinforces the theory that osteosarcoma tends to affect bones when and where they are growing most rapidly.”
Evans, an expert on centrosaurus, said, “We often think of dinosaurs as sort of mythical, powerful creatures, and I think this discovery really underscores that they can be afflicted by diseases that we see around us today, even horrible fatal cancers. I think in an odd way it brings them even more back to life.”
Because of the absence of any living references, studying disease in fossils is a difficult job. However, scientists foresee this research will help them in getting a better understanding of the evolution and genetics of disease.