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Dinosaur Fossils Found With Record Number Of Injuries, Bone Infection

Feb 26, 2016 03:00 PM EST

Fossils belonging to a carnivorous dinosaur from Arizona suggest the prehistoric creature suffered "record-breaking pain." In a recent study of the species' remains, researchers found eight places where its bones were either broken or were damaged by infection. 

"It is not possible to determine with certainty the number of traumatic events that this plethora of pathological features represents," co-authors Phil Senter of Fayetteville State University and Sara Juengst of Appalachian State University wrote in their study. "It is possible that the entire array of fractures and punctures is the result of a single, high-energy encounter."

For example, researchers theorize the dinosaur's fractures may have occurred when the animal was smashed into a tree or rock face during a fight. It also had puncture wounds that may have been inflicted by its attacker's claws during the same encounter -- which would also help explain how infection spread. However, it is not likely that this encounter killed the dinosaur, as a great deal of healing was found around the animal's wound sites.

The dinosaur, Dilophosaurus wetherilli, roamed the Earth 193 million years ago. This dinosaur boasted large back legs used for walking and running and very small front legs, likely used for fighting or killing prey. Fossil evidence indicates they grew up to 20 feet long and weighed approximately 1,100 pounds. Its remains were originally unearthed in Arizona in 1942, but the beatings this animal took remained unknown until now.

The fractures and infections found include: a fractured left shoulder blade, fractured left radius, an infection in its left ulna, two areas of damage due to bone infection in its left thumb, an injury to its right humorous and two examples of osteodysplasia, where the bone was deformed due to unusual growth. Researchers believe these health issues were particularly painful and made it difficult for the animal to hunt. As a result, the animal would have had to live off smaller or less prey while healing, which would have led to dramatic weight loss. 

Their findings were recently published in the journal PLOS ONE

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