Bones of herbivorous dinosaur show it lived with malignant cancer, only to die in a flood

The bone of the dinosaur was discovered in Alberta in 1989 and could be dated back to 76 million years ago.


Scientists have discovered a massive malignant tumour in the leg bone of a 76 million years old dinosaur. This is the first known case of osteosarcoma, a type of primary bone malignancy, found in a dinosaur.

The fossils of the Centrosaurus Apertus, a herbivore dinosaur, revealed that the giant being was suffering from a huge tumour in its hind leg. Moreover, the cancer was malignant in nature, meaning that cancerous cells might have developed at other parts of the dinosaurs body as well. The research was published in the journal The Lancet Oncology.

 Bones of herbivorous dinosaur show it lived with malignant cancer, only to die in a flood

researchers believe that the Centrosaurus Apertus are herbivores dinosaurs that lived in herds. Image credit: Wikipedia

The fibula or the lower leg bone of the dinosaur was discovered from the Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada, in 1989, CNN reported. However, scientists thought the malformed part of the leg was due to some injury the animal might have received and not a dangerous tumour.

Dr Mark Crowther, the co-author of the study, said in a statementDiagnosis of aggressive cancer like this in dinosaurs has been elusive and requires medical expertise and multiple levels of analysis to properly identify.

The cancer was at an advanced stage, according to the scientists, and hence would have made its daily life quite difficult. The cancer would have had crippling effects on the individual and made it very vulnerable to the formidable tyrannosaur predators of the time, said Dr David Evans.

The badly malformed end of this Centrosaurus apertus fossil was originally thought to represent a healing fracture -- but researchers have now determined it was a malignant tumour. Image credit: Danielle Dufault, Royal Ontario Museum

The badly malformed end of this Centrosaurus apertus fossil was originally thought to represent a healing fracture -- but researchers have now determined it was a malignant tumour. Image credit: Danielle Dufault, Royal Ontario Museum

The researchers believe that since the herbivores dinosaurs lived in herds, the 'group existence' might've helped the diseased dinosaur have a comparatively better life.

The site the bones were discovered is also interesting - the cancerous bones were found along with the bones of several other dinosaurs of the same species.

Scientists are of the opinion that many members of the herd might've died together, probably in a flood. Hence, despite surviving in the wild with a damaged hind leg, the dinosaur finally succumbed to a natural calamity. 


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