Planet Earth

Saurian Sore


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Paleopathologist Bruce Rothschild has examined dinosaur ills from arthritis to bone abscesses, but it wasn't until he set eyes on this dinosaur bone that he diagnosed his first saurian tumor. The 110-million-year-old six-inch-wide ten-pound fossil of what appears to be a vertebral fragment, unearthed by amateur fossil hunters at Cedar Mountain, Utah, harbors the earliest known tumors ever recorded. Rothschild hasn't been able to identify the dinosaur species, but the growths resemble benign tumors called hemangiomas found today in the bones of humans and other animals. This photo shows two halves of the same bone, with two tumors. That they were not malignant is clear from the bone's structure, says Rothschild, who is also a rheumatologist at the Arthritis Center of Northeast Ohio. "We knew they were benign because they are sharply defined and have not significantly expanded the exterior surface of the bone," he says. "The tumors may not have had any effect on the dinosaur," says Rothschild. The find, he adds, gives us a unique look at the development-or lack thereof-of disease over the ages. "Diseases look the same through time," he says. "It makes no difference whether this is now or a hundred million years ago."

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