A team of researchers reported that they found the world’s first fossilized facial tumor on a dinosaur. The discovery was made on a specimen unearthed about a decade ago in Transylvania, Romania.
The tumor was detected in the jaw of a tiny dinosaur species dubbed Telmatosaurus transsylvanicus for the name of the place where it was first found in 1895. It was unearthed by local people in the Hateg County on the place where Dinosaurs Geopark emerged in recent years. The place is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Telmatosaurus is a relatively small duck-billed dinosaur as the largest animal found was just 16-foot-long. It belongs to the Hadrosauridae family.
The facial tumor was documented by an international team of scientists. The group was shocked to learn that dinosaurs could develop tumors just like their modern cousins, humans, and other mammals can.
Kate Acheson, one of the researchers involved in the findigns, believes that the tumor found in the ancient animal is a sign that duck-billed dinosaurs were at a higher risk of developing tumors than other ancient reptiles.
Dr Zoltán Csiki-Sava, a senior researcher also involved in the discovery of the tumor, explained that the fossil presented the deformity ten years ago when it was first unearthed, but only recently his team managed to learn more about it.
Reportedly, Switzerland-based SCANCO Medical AG allowed researchers to use a state-of-the-art Micro-CT scanning device to analyze the tumor without producing damage to the fossil.
The scans revealed that the animal’s jawbone was affected by a tumor known as ameloblastoma. It is a non-cancerous growth which can still be found in the jaws of humans, mammals and today’s reptiles.
Dr Bruce Rothschild of the Northeast Ohio Medical University, who analyzed the scans, said that researchers had expected bone disease to be found in the dinosaurs from the Hateg County Dinosaurs Geopark, as the place had scarce fauna.
However, finding a modern condition on a duck billed dinosaur, and the first to be documented in any dinosaur, was indeed a “wonderful surprise,” lead author Mihai Dumbrava added.
Scientists don’t think that the dinosaur was in pain due to the condition since it died before the tumor was able to fully develop. Researchers found only two lower jaws so they cannot estimate the precise cause of death at the moment. However, the tumor may have led to the dinosaurs’ doom but for a different reason: predators prey on animals that look slightly disabled by a condition, Csiki-Sava explained.
A study detailing the tumoral formation was published this week in Scientific Reports.
Image Source: Wikimedia