As we know, cancer, specifically osteosarcoma, affects many humans today. However, we didn’t know until now that this cancer affected dinosaurs too.
In a new study, scientists have found, for the very first time, that dinosaurs suffered from osteosarcoma.
In 1989, a lower leg bone from a dinosaur called a Centrosaurus that lived approximately 77 million years ago was found in Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada. At the time, the fossilized bone was noted to be deformed, however, it was thought this was so on account of a healing fracture, according to CNN.
A new study published in Lancet Oncology, however, saw researchers comparing the structure of this fossil to a bone tumor from a human patient. This led to the conclusion that the dinosaur had actually suffered from osteosarcoma.
Scientists involved in the study, including pathologists, paleontologists, a radiologist and a surgeon analysed the fossil using high-resolution computerised tomography scans. They also analysed thin sections under a microscope. Through these examinations, they concluded that the osteosarcoma was quite advanced, and it had likely troubled the dinosaur for a while, according to Science Mag.
Speaking to CBC News, co-author Seper Ekthiari, an orthopedic surgery resident at McMaster, said that while the dinosaur was very sick, the dinosaur didn’t die of it, nor was it killed by a predator. He suspects that the dinosaur’s heard protected it.
“A tumour that had extended this far in a human would almost certainly have metastasized elsewhere. It’s very likely the individual would have been in pain. We all share a similar body plan and we all share a common ancestor. This would have been a gentle herbivorous animal trying to keep up with the herd,” he said.
“We know these dinosaurs were highly social. Many horned dinosaurs lived in big herds. They were often living with members of their extended family. There’s a benefit to living with those groups. It wouldn’t be surprising to me that the herd would have protected these sick and weak and lame individuals,” he added.
“It would be completely speculative,” Evans said. “But it wouldn’t be impossible.”
Science Mag reports that this is not the first time cancer has been found in fossils, however. In the past, scientists have found benign tumours in Tyrannosaurus rex fossils, and arthritis in duck-billed hadrosaurs.