, Volume 93, Issue 11, pp 557–564 | Cite as

Hyperdisease in the late Pleistocene: validation of an early 20th century hypothesis

  • Bruce M. RothschildEmail author
  • Richard Laub
Original Article


The hypothesis of disease-related large mammal extinction has new support. A unique pathologic zone of resorption was first noticed in a Hiscock Mammut americanum metacarpal. The pathognomonic zone of resorption was present in fifty-nine (52%) of 113 skeletons with feet available for examination. Metacarpals and metatarsals were most commonly affected. Associated rib periosteal reaction is highly suggestive of tuberculosis and the foot lesions were identical to that documented in Bison as pathognomonic for tuberculosis. Recognizing that only a portion of animals infected by infectious tuberculosis develop bone involvement, the high frequency of the pathology in M. americanum suggests that tuberculosis was not simply endemic, but actually pandemic, a hyperdisease. Pandemic tuberculosis was one of several probable factors contributing to mastodon extinction.


Tuberculosis Hyperdisease Mastodon Pleistocene Erosive disease Bison Infection 



Appreciation is expressed to Laura Marie Abraczinskas, Warren Allmon, Joe Bopp, Kenneth Carpenter, John J. Chiment, Margery Coombs, George Corner, Shelley M. Cox, Denny Diveley, Dallas Evans, Daniel Fisher, Mary Flynt, Robert C. Glotzhober, Dale Gnidovec, Mike Gottlieb, Brian Hockett, Robert Hunt, Logan Ivy, Brian Iwama, Spencer Lucas, Gay Malin, Peggy Mathias, Cheryl Mattevi, George McIntosh, Lorrie McWhinney, Lyn Murray, David Parris, William H. Peks, Art Poyer, Robert Purdy, Ronald Richards, Tracy M. Rozelle, Nora Salmen, Scott Sampson, Jeff Saunders, Kevin Seymour, Chris Shaw, Greg Sheehan, James M. Sherpa, William Simpson, Deborah Skilliter, Kenneth Stadtman, Robert Sullivan, Mike Voorhees, Ray Wilhite, and Michael Williams for facilitating access to the collections they curate and especially to John Chiment, Kenneth Carpenter, Daniel Fisher, and Jeff Saunders for balancing perspectives.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  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.Buffalo Museum of ScienceBuffaloUSA

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