The first dinosaur found with parasites

Shutterstock.com/ Ton Bangkeaw
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Dinosaurs existed so long ago on Earth that we often don’t think about them as something that really lived on this planet. 230 million years ago dinosaurs lived across the entire world with the last dinosaur on Earth around 65 million years ago. While then it was one supercontinent named Pangea, they still spread across every continent that we have today. Most dinosaur fossils have been found in America, China, and Argentina but most countries can now report a case or two of dinosaur fossils being found.

The discoveries of new species of dinosaurs and the insights we get on these dinosaurs continue to grow. Although it took place over 65 million years ago, there is still a lot to learn. A recent study estimated that there were at least 700 different species of dinosaurs in the past. There may have been many more but this is what has been discovered to date.

Recently a new dinosaur species was discovered and while this is always exciting there was something even more interesting about the actual specimen found. He was sick. The dinosaur comes from the titanosaur family but is a new species that has never been seen before. This particular titanosaur measured around 16 feet in length was small in height but with a very long tail. The moment the bones were taken from the earth the paleontologists saw there were some lesions on the fossil of the dinosaur, she immediately knew furth investigation was required.

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Originally the paleontologist thought it may indicate some form of bone cancer. This had been found by paleontologists previously so she went to cross-reference with their work. It wasn’t the same. She was at a loss. The majority of dinosaur bones are studied using simple x rays or possibly just the naked eye. This can leave a lot of guesswork. However, the expense of something like a cat scan can rule out any further investigation.

On this occasion, the paleontologist, Aline Ghilardi, felt that the questions deserved the additional cost to try and get some answers. It turns out that the dinosaur in question is 80 million years old and had a small bone infection called osteomyelitis. This disease is still present in animals and humans today and is incredibly tough to cure. 
A closer examination of the infection showed that there were microfossils. Fossilized microorganisms that were as small as a millimeter in size each. These organisms could be many things. They could be plants or animals but the team soon discovered that they were parasites. When they brought in an expert they realized that there were about 70 parasites present on the dinosaur fossil.

This was the first time that parasites had ever been discovered on the fossils of a dinosaur. They had been found in previous times encase in amber or feces but fossilized in the bone was a first. Thanks to the scan the experts were able to see that the infection was quite bad permeating all the way from the inside of the bone to the outer skin. It likely would have meant that walking was difficult for the dinosaur and that his body was covered in sores.

While this will help a great deal with understanding the vulnerabilities of dinosaurs millions of years ago, it also has the potential to help humans today. This disease still affects many people and being able to study it in such a mature stage millions of years later may be the final puzzle piece that is required to solve the disease outright.

This shows that there is still a lot to discover from the dinosaur world and it may be worthwhile investigating. The answers to a lot of diseases could be hiding in the fossils.