Animals / Micro organisms / Nature

Dinosaur diseases


My son nowadays is into watching Dinosaur songs and I was watching these videos, I thought of writing an article about these amazing creatures which captures everyone’s fascination and imagination. These magnificent creatures which ruled the earth had a dramatic demise, which placed way for us humans to dominate this planet. There is so much information about these creatures so writing yet another article about it might be boring hence I decided to write about the diseases which plagued these creatures that seem to be hidden away from us. The motivation to touch on the diseases was also because of a book that I am currently reading which has touched upon tumors in dinosaurs. This is also a kind of an extension of another article I wrote a couple of weeks ago on the common diseases between animals and humans.

Dinosaurs didn’t suffer from frequent diseases, but when they did,researchers seem to find them to be very similar to the diseases that we encounter in today’s world as if the huge time gap between dinosaurs and us almost never impacted the diseases. There is extensive research done on the fossils of dinosaurs not only to understand their anatomy but also to get a glimpse of what diseases they might have suffered during their lives. Scientists have found bone infections among Tyrannosaurus rex and its relatives. Scientists were also able to deduce that these infections were caused by trichomonosis, disease caused by protozoan and is a very common infection especially among birds. Several skeletal deformations have been observed such as gout in tyrannosaurids, osteoarthritis in Iguanodon   and Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH), was discovered in Apatosaurus.


Researchers have also found evidence of cancer causing tumors among dinosaur remains.Duck-billed dinosaurs vertebrae have shown to have had tumors among their vertebrae infect almost 3% of the skeletons examined of these dinosaurs shown some form of cancer. It is hypothesised that these dinosaurs ate leaves and flowers of conifer trees which were rich in carcinogens resulting in them getting these diseases. However, the relative incident rates are very low amongst these reptiles.

Mesozoic era, the age of the dinosaurs lasted 180 million years and had warm weather with no polar ice caps. This warm environment gave an opportunity for cold blooded animals such as dinosaurs to thrive. However, all this changed 66 million years ago, when a giant asteroid traveling at a speed of 64,000 kilometers/hour hit the earth which resulted in earthquakes and tsunamis and days on end of dim cloudy atmosphere. Scientists hypothesize that it wasn’t just these dramatic events that led to the demise of dinosaurs, along with this was the increase in fungal populations due to decrease in atmospheric temperatures. Dinosaurs were inhaling massive amounts of fungi and since they are cold blooded animals, they couldn’t fight off these infections as robustly as mammals, this ultimate demise paved the way for the rise of mammals. 

Based on all these findings scientists speculate that the decline of dinosaurs started much earlier than 66 million years ago as their immune system just wasn’t able to evolve to fight against these dreadful diseases and infections. This goes on to show that the idiom ‘bigger the better’ certainly doesn’t apply to dinosaurs 🙂

Royalty free images were used.

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