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Epidemiologic study of tumors in dinosaurs


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.

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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.

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Correspondence to B. M. Rothschild.

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Rothschild, B.M., Tanke, D.H., Helbling, M. et al. Epidemiologic study of tumors in dinosaurs. Naturwissenschaften 90, 495–500 (2003).

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