Epidemiologic study of tumors in dinosaurs

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

References

  1. Barrett PM, Upchurch P (2001) Feeding mechanisms and changes in sauropod paleoecology through time. J Vertebr Paleontol 21:32A

    Google 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 107:745–752

    PubMed  Google 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 213-227

  5. Chinsamy A, Dodson P (1995) Inside a dinosaur bone. Am Sci 83:174–180

    Google 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 21:69A

    Google Scholar 

  7. Mohan V, Gupta SK, Tuli SM, Sanyal B (1981) Symptomatic vertebral haemangiomas. Skeletal Radiol 31:575–579

    Google 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 337–363

  9. Moodie RL (1917) Studies in paleopathology. I. General consideration of the evidences of pathological conditions found among fossil animals. Ann Med Hist 1:374–393

    Google Scholar 

  10. Resnick D (2002) Diagnosis of bone and joint disorders. Saunders, Philadelphia, Pa.

  11. Rothschild BM, Martin L (1993) Paleopathology: disease in the fossil record. CRC, Boca Raton, Fla.

  12. Rothschild BM, Rothschild C (1995) Comparison of radiologic and gross examination for detection of cancer in defleshed skeletons. Am J Phys Anthropol 6:357–363

    Google Scholar 

  13. Rothschild BM, Tanke D, Hershkovitz I, Schultz M (1998) Mesozoic neoplasia: origins of hemangioma in the Jurassic. Lancet 351:1862

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Rothschild BM, Witzke BJ, Hershkovitz I (1999) Metastatic cancer in the Jurassic. Lancet 354:398

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Schmorl G, Junghanns H (1971) The human spine in health and disease, 2nd edn. Grune and Stratton, New York

  16. Sherman RS, Wilner D (1961) The Roentgen diagnosis of haemangioma of bone. Am J Roentgenol 86:1146–1159

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Taylor P (1992) Doctors try to diagnose dinosaur cancer. Toronto Globe and Mail 5 January 1992:A1–A2

    Google Scholar 

  18. Yochum TR, Lile RL, Schultz GD, Mick TJ, Brown W (1993) Acquired spinal stenosis secondary to expanding thoracic vertebral hemangioma. Spine 18:299–305

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

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.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to B. M. Rothschild.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Rothschild, B.M., Tanke, D.H., Helbling, M. et al. Epidemiologic study of tumors in dinosaurs. Naturwissenschaften 90, 495–500 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-003-0473-9

Download citation

Keywords

  • Hemangioma
  • Metastatic Cancer
  • Giant Cell Tumor
  • Aneurysmal Bone Cyst
  • Hemangiopericytoma