, Volume 90, Issue 11, pp 495–500 | Cite as

Epidemiologic study of tumors in dinosaurs

  • B. M. RothschildEmail author
  • D. H. Tanke
  • M. HelblingII
  • L. D. Martin
Short Communication


Occasional reports in isolated fragments of dinosaur bones have suggested that tumors might represent a population phenomenon. Previous study of humans has demonstrated that vertebral radiology is a powerful diagnostic tool for population screening. The epidemiology of tumors in dinosaurs was here investigated by fluoroscopically screening dinosaur vertebrae for evidence of tumors. Computerized tomography (CT) and cross-sections were obtained where appropriate. Among more than 10,000 specimens x-rayed, tumors were only found in Cretaceous hadrosaurs (duck-billed dinosaurs). These included hemangiomas and metastatic cancer (previously identified in dinosaurs), desmoplastic fibroma, and osteoblastoma. The epidemiology of tumors in dinosaurs seems to reflect a familial pattern. A genetic propensity or environmental mutagens are suspected.


Hemangioma Metastatic Cancer Giant Cell Tumor Aneurysmal Bone Cyst Hemangiopericytoma 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Appreciation is expressed to Allison A. Smith, J.D. Stewart, Peter and Neal Larson, Burkhard Pohl, Richard Cifelli, Kevin Seymour, Sankar Chatterjee, Nick Czaplewski, Ray DiVasto, Mark Norrell, Pamela Owen, Juan Langston, Bill Simpson, Robert Purdy, Lorrie McWinnery, Ken Carpenter, Dave Berman, Mary Dawson, Richard Harrington, Elizabeth Hill, Jack Hanke, Mary Ann Turner, Kyle Davies, Hans-Dieter Sues, Kyle S McQuilkin, Kieran Shepherd, Margaret Feuerstack, Jack Horner, Mary Flynn, Cliff Miles, Ken Stadtman, and Scott Sampson for assistance in accessing the collections they curate, and to Virginia Naples, Margery Coombs and an anonymous reviewer for cogent manuscript review.


  1. Barrett PM, Upchurch P (2001) Feeding mechanisms and changes in sauropod paleoecology through time. J Vertebr Paleontol 21:32AGoogle Scholar
  2. Boye E, Yu Y, Paranya G, Mulliken JB, Olsen BR, Bischoff J (2001) Clonality and altered behavior of endothelial cells from hemangiomas. J Clin Invest 107:745–752PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Chew FS (1997) Skeletal radiology: the bare bones. Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, Md.Google Scholar
  4. Chinsamy A. (1994) Dinosaur bone histology: implications and inferences. In: Rosenberg GD, Wolberg DL (eds) DinoFest. (Special publication no. 7) The Paleontological Society, Pittsburgh, Pa., pp 213-227Google Scholar
  5. Chinsamy A, Dodson P (1995) Inside a dinosaur bone. Am Sci 83:174–180Google Scholar
  6. Krauss DA (2001) An analysis of the feeding habits of herbivorous dinosaurs through the examination of phytoliths trapped on tooth grinding surfaces. J Vert Paleontol 21:69AGoogle Scholar
  7. Mohan V, Gupta SK, Tuli SM, Sanyal B (1981) Symptomatic vertebral haemangiomas. Skeletal Radiol 31:575–579Google Scholar
  8. Molnar RE (2001) Theropod paleopathology: a literature survey. In: Tanke DH, Carpenter K (eds) Mesozoic vertebral life: new research inspired by the paleontology of Philip J. Currie. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Ind., pp 337–363Google Scholar
  9. Moodie RL (1917) Studies in paleopathology. I. General consideration of the evidences of pathological conditions found among fossil animals. Ann Med Hist 1:374–393Google Scholar
  10. Resnick D (2002) Diagnosis of bone and joint disorders. Saunders, Philadelphia, Pa.Google Scholar
  11. Rothschild BM, Martin L (1993) Paleopathology: disease in the fossil record. CRC, Boca Raton, Fla.Google Scholar
  12. Rothschild BM, Rothschild C (1995) Comparison of radiologic and gross examination for detection of cancer in defleshed skeletons. Am J Phys Anthropol 6:357–363Google Scholar
  13. Rothschild BM, Tanke D, Hershkovitz I, Schultz M (1998) Mesozoic neoplasia: origins of hemangioma in the Jurassic. Lancet 351:1862PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Rothschild BM, Witzke BJ, Hershkovitz I (1999) Metastatic cancer in the Jurassic. Lancet 354:398CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Schmorl G, Junghanns H (1971) The human spine in health and disease, 2nd edn. Grune and Stratton, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  16. Sherman RS, Wilner D (1961) The Roentgen diagnosis of haemangioma of bone. Am J Roentgenol 86:1146–1159Google Scholar
  17. Taylor P (1992) Doctors try to diagnose dinosaur cancer. Toronto Globe and Mail 5 January 1992:A1–A2Google Scholar
  18. Yochum TR, Lile RL, Schultz GD, Mick TJ, Brown W (1993) Acquired spinal stenosis secondary to expanding thoracic vertebral hemangioma. Spine 18:299–305PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. M. Rothschild
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  • D. H. Tanke
    • 5
  • M. HelblingII
    • 1
  • L. D. Martin
    • 4
  1. 1.Arthritis Center of Northeast OhioYoungstownUSA
  2. 2.Northeastern Ohio Universities College of MedicineRootstownUSA
  3. 3.Carnegie Museum of Natural HistoryPittsburghUSA
  4. 4.University of Kansas Museum of Natural HistoryLawrenceUSA
  5. 5.Royal Tyrrell Museum of PalaeontologyDrumhellerCanada

Personalised recommendations