(ORDO NEWS) — A respiratory tract infection invaded the bones of an ancient sauropod, preserving evidence of a respiratory disease in an animal that lived in the late Jurassic.
Animals that existed in the distant eras of the past suffered from diseases no less than modern ones. So, according to the fossil of a centrosaurus over 75 million years old, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma.
Previously, the oldest such example was traces of a respiratory infection in a titanosaurus about 100 million years old, but the new case is much older.
Cary Woodruff and his colleagues from Canada and the United States examined the remains of Dolly (MOR 7029), a diplodocid , a member of a group of long-necked sauropod giants. The fossil was found in Montana in 1990.
It reaches 18 meters in length, so scientists believe that it was a relatively young dinosaur that lived no more than 15-20 years. Paleontologists examined fragments of its skull and seven upper vertebrae containing cavities for air sacs – cavities involved in respiration in some animals, including dinosaurs and birds.
Their respiratory system is markedly different from what we are used to: the work of the lungs is complemented by an air sac system.
In sauropods, they penetrate into the cervical vertebrae through openings, the surface of which is normally exceptionally smooth so that soft tissues do not rub against it during movement.
However, on three of Dolly’s vertebrae, precisely in the places where the air sacs passed, a bone lesion developed, which formed small (up to one centimeter) shapeless growths.
Such simultaneous development in several vertebrae at once can hardly be attributed to a tumor, and scientists believe that the lesion is associated with a respiratory infection that spread through the respiratory tract and reached the bones of the spine through the air sacs.
Apparently, it was a long and chronic disease, one of the varieties of aerocystitis – inflammation of the air sacs. Whether she caused Dolly’s death is not clear, although the animal must have suffered severely from a runny nose and high fever.
Such evidence is not preserved in the fossil record. Therefore, it is impossible to say what kind of infection struck the diplodocid, or at least what nature it was – bacterial or viral.
However, Woodruff et al note that Aspergillus is a common cause of bone-borne respiratory infections in modern reptiles and birds. Dinosaurs seem to have suffered from this kind of aspergillosis as far back as the late Jurassic.
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