Archive for August 9th, 2020

Malignant cancer found in dinosaur bone

Sunday, August 9th, 2020

Researchers have discovered an osteaosarcoma on the lower leg of a Centrosaurus, the first time a malignant cancer has been discovered in dinosaurs.

The fossilized fibula of a Centrosaurus apertus, a horned dinosaur that lived about 76 million years ago, was discovered in a large bonebed replete with Centrosaurus fossils in Alberta, Canada in 1989. The fibula appeared to be malformed, perhaps the result of fracture that healed poorly. It was stored in the Royal Tyrrell Museum with other pathological dinosaur bones.

The fibula was rediscovered by Royal Ontario Museum paleontologist David Evans and McMaster University pathology specialist Mark Crowther who were looking for evidence of malignant bone cancer in dinosaurs. Tumors have been found in dinosaur bones before, but not malignancies. Evans and Crowther recognized that the malformation in the fibula was not in fact a break. Together with their multidisciplinary team of pathologists, radiologists, orthopaedic surgeons and palaeopathologists, they determined it was bone cancer.

“Diagnosis of aggressive cancer like this in dinosaurs has been elusive and requires medical expertise and multiple levels of analysis to properly identify,” says Crowther. Using a normal fibula from a dinosaur of the same species, as well as the fibula of a human with a confirmed case of osteosarcoma, the researchers were able to confirm the diagnosis. The extensive invasion of the cancer throughout the bone suggests that it persisted for a considerable time period of the animal’s life and may have spread to other parts of the dinosaur’s body prior to death.

“Diagnosis of aggressive cancer like this in dinosaurs has been elusive and requires medical expertise and multiple levels of analysis to properly identify,” says Crowther. Using a normal fibula from a dinosaur of the same species, as well as the fibula of a human with a confirmed case of osteosarcoma, the researchers were able to confirm the diagnosis. The extensive invasion of the cancer throughout the bone suggests that it persisted for a considerable time period of the animal’s life and may have spread to other parts of the dinosaur’s body prior to death.

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