Scientists Identified Bone Cancer In 240-Million-Year-Old Turtle Fossils

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The worlds’ oldest case of bone cancer has been identified in 240-million-year-old turtle fossils. More specifically, a Triassic period shell-less turtle fossils revealed that the respective animal had bone cancer. According to the study co-author Dr. Bruce Rothschild, a research associate at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, it is a “rare phenomenon” to spot cancer in ancient fossils.

By employing microscopy and computerized tomography techniques, the researchers, who published their study’s results in JAMA Oncology, in collaboration with scientists the Museum of Natural History, Leibniz Institute for Research on Evolution and Biodiversity in Berlin, Germany, analyzed the femur bone of some 240-million-year-old turtle fossils found in Germany back in 2013.

The respective shell-less turtle, scientifically known as Pappochelys rosinae, “is an ancestor of modern-day turtles — other previously-found fossils suggested the reptile was only 8 inches long (20 centimeters), adorned with broad trunk ribs and had no shell. (Fully shelled turtles didn’t appear until about 205 million to 210 million years ago, at least according to the fossil record),” Live Science wrote.

Scientists Identified Bone Cancer In 240-Million-Year-Old Turtle Fossils

After scanning the 240-million-year-old turtle fossils, the researchers observed a strange mass in one of the bones. According to Rothschild, it is, usually, challenging to make a difference between bone cancer and a natural bone infection in ancient fossils. But there were no signs of an infection.

Rather than an infection, the strange mass in the bones that made the 240-million-year-old turtle fossils was malignant periosteal osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. Previously, the same kind of cancer has been observed in other Triassic amphibians. Even stranger, the bone cancer in this ancient shell-less turtle appears to be very similar to what we see today in humans, Dr. Bruce Rothschild added.

“We are one community which responds to the environment and whatever factors that cause cancer in the same way. We’re all part of the same Earth, and we are all inflicted with the same phenomena,” Dr. Rothschild concluded.


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