A new study identifies the first known case of cancer in dinosaurs and shows they suffered from the debilitating disease too
OTTAWA – Dinosaurs loom in the imagination as forces of nature, but a new study that identifies the first known case of cancer in the creatures shows they suffered from the debilitating disease too.
A badly malformed Centrosaurus leg bone unearthed in the Alberta, Canada badlands in 1989 had originally been thought by paleontologists to be a healed fracture.
But a fresh examination of the growth under a microscope and using a technique also employed in human cancer care determined it was actually a malignant tumor.
“The cancer discovery makes dinosaurs more real,” study co-author Mark Crowther told AFP.
“We often think of them as mythical creatures, robust and stomping around, but (the diagnosis shows) they suffered from diseases just like people.”
The findings were published in the August issue of The Lancet Oncology.
Most cancers occur in soft tissues, which are not well-preserved in fossil records, noted Crowther, a dinosaur enthusiast and chair of McMaster University’s medical faculty in Canada.
“Oddly enough, under a microscope it looked a lot like human Osteosarcoma,” he said.
“It’s fascinating that this cancer existed tens of millions of years ago and still exists today.”
Osteosarcoma is an aggressive bone cancer that still afflicts about three out of one million people each year.
– ‘Just part of life’ –
In this horned herbivore that lived 76 million to 77 million years ago it had metastasised and likely hobbled the giant lizard, the researchers said in the study.
But neither the late-stage cancer nor a predator looking to make a meal out of slow and weak prey is believed to have killed it.
Because its bones were discovered with more than 100 others from the same herd, the researchers said, it’s more likely they all died in a sudden disaster such as a flood, and that prior to this catastrophe the herd protected the lame dinosaur, extending its life.
Lead researchers Crowther and David Evans, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and their team sifted through hundreds of samples of abnormal bones at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, to find the bone with a tumour, which is about the size of an apple.
The team also used high-resolution computed tomography (CT) scans, a multidisciplinary diagnostic technique used in human cancer care.
Crowther said dinosaurs would probably have been at higher risk of Osteosarcoma, which affects youths with fast-growing bones, because they grew very quickly and big.
“In terms of the biology of cancer,” he said, “you often hear about environmental, dietary and other causes of cancer. Finding a case from more than 75 million years ago you realize it’s just a part of life.”
“You have an animal that surely wasn’t smoking (a leading cause of cancer in humans) and so it shows that cancer is not a recent invention, and that it’s not exclusively linked to our environment.”
A new kind of burrowing dinosaur was found in the Lu Jiatun Bed, the oldest floor of the famous Xian layer in northeastern China. According to the press release. Scientists believe they were trapped in a volcanic eruption while resting at the bottom of the cave.
Pascal Gode Freud, a paleontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, said: “These animals were quickly covered with microscopic sediments during life and shortly after death.”
The scientist said the effect would be very similar to what happened in Pompeii. According to the press release, the new species was named Changmiania liaoningensis. Changmian means “eternal sleep” in Chinese.
Scientists deduce that ornithopods lived in the Cretaceous Period and were small herbivores that could run very quickly, depending on the length of the tail and the composition of the legs. It was about 1.2 meters (about 4 feet) long.
“However, certain characteristics of the skeleton suggest that the spear mia can be burrowed like a rabbit today,” Godefroit said.
“The neck and forearm are very short, but they are sturdy, the scapula excavates the spine, and the upper part of the snout is shovel-shaped.
The 27-year-old woman was trimming by the edge of a lake near a country club in Fort Myers on September 10 when the alligator bit her.
She was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital and treated for injuries to both legs, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
The alligator was later caught by a contracted nuisance alligator trapper and taken to an alligator farm, according to the commission
The FWC said it is are still investigating the incident.
A few days later on September 13, a man suffered injuries to his leg when he was bitten by an alligator while walking his dog along a residential canal in Port St. Lucie, FWC said. The 8-foot, 3-inch alligator that bit him was removed and transferred to an alligator farm.
CNN affiliate WPTV reported that Mark Johnson, 61, said the alligator clamped onto his leg and was trying to drag him under water. When Johnson poked the alligator in the eye, the reptile let go, he said.
“I kind of slide and my foot is stuck in the mud, and the next thing I know, I see the lunge,” Johnson told WPTV. “He starts clamping down pretty tight and he started to pull, and the next thing I do, I instantly, here’s my fingers, I poke through the eye.”
Johnson received 62 stitches and his dog was unhurt, WPTV reported.
Alligator bites are serious, but injuries caused by the massive reptiles are rare in Florida, according to the FWC.
“FWC places the highest priority on public safety and administers a Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP),” FWC said in a statement to CNN. “The goal of SNAP is to proactively address alligator threats in developed areas, while conserving alligators in areas where they naturally occur.”
SNAP uses contracted nuisance alligator trappers across Florida to find and remove alligators who may pose a threat to people or pets.
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