Dwarf Dinosaur

Scientists Discover First Fossilized Face Tumor Ever Found

As historic discoveries go, one might find it hard to believe that a fossilized face tumor could be enough of a find to incite excitement in the scientific world. Surely deformities and growths have been found on the countless other dinosaur bones found around the world. What makes a fossilized face tumor so special?

As it happens, a face tumor in fossil form has never been discovered on a dinosaur until recently. According to the Cubic Lane, the Telmatosaurus transsylvanicus was a dwarf dinosaur, and one of the earliest members of the duck-billed dinosaur, or hadrosaur, species. The face tumor was found to be an ameloblastoma, which occurs today in both humans and animals. The Mayo Clinic website defines this type of face tumor as a rare and noncancerous tumor that typically grows in the area of the jaw by the molars. While the face tumor can grow aggressively and cause pain and swelling, it is not harmful.

While scientists do not believe the face tumor was cancerous or painful for the hadrosaur, it is possible that the face tumor played a part in the dwarf dinosaur’s demise. Though only part of the lower jaw remained, scientists have been able to ascertain that the dinosaur died at a young age, possibly targeted by a predator due to the abnormality of the face tumor.

Zoltán Csiki-Sava, of the University of Bucharest in Romania, explains this theory.

“We know from modern examples that predators often attack a member of the herd that looks a little different or is even slightly disabled by a disease. The tumor in this dinosaur had not developed to its full extent at the moment it died, but it could have indirectly contributed to its early demise.”

Pulse Headlines reports that the dinosaur remains containing the fossilized face tumor was actually found over 10 years ago, in Transylvania’s Valley of the Dinosaurs, but researchers were unable to pinpoint the origin of the growth until recently.

Dr. Csiki-Sava was the leader of the team that found the jaw bones of the dwarf dinosaur. He says the SCANCO Medical AG in Switzerland generously offered the use of their Micro-CT scan, which ultimately led to the discovery that the face tumor was actually an ameloblastoma.

“It was obvious that the fossil was deformed when it was found more than a decade ago, but what caused the outgrowth remained unclear until now.”

Kate Acheson, a doctoral student at the University of Southampton, and one of the study’s researchers, speaks of the rarity of this fossilized find.

“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.”

According to the Seeker, Northeast Ohio Medical University professor of medicine and study co-author Dr. Bruce Rothschild has much experience in the study of ancient diseases, or paleopathology. He says the fact that the duck-billed dinosaur was prone to this type of face tumor suggests that humans and dinosaurs are more alike than originally believed.

The discovery of the fossilized face tumor on the dwarf dinosaur jaw may possibly open doors in the scientific world that were heretofore inaccessible.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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