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An Untold Painful Story: Severe Arthritis Found in Duck-Billed Dinosaur’s Elbow

Aug 05, 2016 04:00 AM EDT

Seventy million years ago, a duck-billed dinosaur suffered from a bad elbow inflicted with severe arthritis.

Researchers in New Jersey found a hadrosaur specimen that had septic arthritis in its elbow. According to Live Science, this is the oldest recorded case of septic arthritis -- a condition in which a joint becomes inflamed, often from bacteria or fungus.

Before reaching the end of its life, researchers said that the plant-eating, duck-billed dinosaur must have endured considerable pain, New Scientist reports.

An evidence of septic arthritis -- an especially nasty form of the disease caused by infection and known to afflict modern birds, crocodiles and human beings -- was found in the X-ray analysis of the fossilized elbow joint.

Meanwhile, a micro-tomography scan, which is a high-resolution version of the CT scans used in hospitals, showed that the joint was fused and covered in bony growths.

Study lead researcher Jennifer Anné told Live Science, "Our [duck-billed dinosaur] seems to have been afflicted with septic arthritis, which completely destroyed the elbow joint."

Anné also mentioned that there was a possible fusion of the below due to the presence of bone destruction and excess bone growth.

The researchers would not be able to know the existence of this fossilized specimen if not discovered by David Paris, a curator in New Jersey State Museum.

According to New Scientist, the detailed micro-CT images helped the researchers diagnose the duck-billed dinosaur (or hadrosaur) and its bad case of septic arthritis. The condition likely gave the dinosaur a limp, and could have "possibly been severe enough for the animal to not use that arm at all," Anné said.

It is the first time septic arthritis has been seen in a dinosaur, although another arthritic condition called osteomyelitis was quite common among these creatures.

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