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Fossil Reveals Dinosaur Developed Facial Tumors, Too

Jul 08, 2016 04:40 AM EDT
Cat with facial tumor (Photo : Flickr/Creative Commons/Strange Biology)

Dinosaurs, with their thick, flexible and tough skin, can defend themselves against predators, but what about from tumors?

A fossil found in the Hațeg County Dinosaurs Geopark, a UNESCO site in Transylvania, suggests dinosaurs suffered from facial tumor, too.

Paleontologists who have studied the fossil said it belonged to the ancient species called the dwarf dinosaur, Telmatosaurus transsylvanicus.

According to a news release posted by the University of Southampton, Telmatosaurus transsylvanicus is a type of primitive duck-billed dinosaur known as a hadrosaur, and is estimated to be approximately 69 to 67 million years old.

"This discovery is the first ever described in the fossil record and the first to be thoroughly documented in a dwarf dinosaur. Telmatosaurus is known to be close to the root of the duck-billed dinosaur family tree, and the presence of such a deformity early in their evolution provides us with further evidence that the duck-billed dinosaurs were more prone to tumors than other dinosaurs," said Kate Acheson, a PhD student at the University of Southampton, in the release.

With the help of Micro-CT scan facility at SCANCO Medical AG in Switzerland, paleopathologists were able to conclude that the dinosaur suffered from ameloblastoma.

Ameloblastoma is described by Mayo Clinic as a rare, noncancerous (benign) tumor that develops most often in the jaw near the molars. It often causes pain in the jaw area and can spread even on the neck and lungs, but the study said the dinosaur might not have felt the same pain humans with ameloblastoma feel.

Although ameloblastoma is common in humans, mammals and other reptiles, the relic is the first ever proof of tumorous facial swelling in fossils.

"The discovery of an ameloblastoma in a duck-billed dinosaur documents that we have more in common with dinosaurs than previously realized," said paleopathologist Bruce Rothschild from the Northeast Ohio Medical University.

The research also added that it is not certain whether the dinosaur died because of the tumor or because he was attacked by other dinosaurs because it looked unusual with its swelling jaws.

The Daily Mail notes that Transylvania is home to terrifying island-dwelling dinosaurs in the Late Cretaceous 70 to 66 million years ago.

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