Cretaceous Titanosaur Suffered from Blood Parasites and Severe Bone Inflammation
A giant sauropod dinosaur that lived 85.2 million years ago (Cretaceous period) in what is now Brazil had an aggressive case of osteomyelitis in its leg and soft-bodied parasitical microorganisms in its vascular canals.
“The occurrence of osteomyelitis in dinosaurs is rare, but recent studies have corroborated the occurrence of this form of bone inflammation in Sauropodomorpha,” said lead author Dr. Tito Aureliano and his colleagues from the University of Campinas, the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, and the Federal University of Sao Carlos.
“Evidence of fossil endoparasites of vertebrates has already been found in coprolites and invertebrate vectors preserved in amber.”
“However, fossil parasites preserved directly in vertebrate tissues were unknown until the present date.”
In the study, the researchers looked at the 85.2-million-year-old fragmentary fibula of a titanosaur from Brazil’s Adamantina Formation.
They used CT scanning to create a 3D model of the full fossil.
They also examined the specimen with petrographic and non-filtered optical
They identified tens of fossil parasites preserved inside the specimen’s vascular canals — the first clear example of a parasite preserved inside fossilized bone tissue.
The dinosaur fibula also showed acute osteomyelitis with elliptical ulcerations, present throughout all the bone.
Bone inflammation was either caused by the referred parasites or facilitated its infestation.
“Our research documents for the first time the detailed histological description of severe bone inflammation and the exceptional preservation of soft-bodied parasitical microorganisms inside the vascular canals of a non-avian dinosaur,” the scientists said.
“The results bring new insights into the fields of parasitology, pathology, and histology in the fossil record.”
The team’s paper was published in the journal Cretaceous Research.
Tito Aureliano et al. 2021. Blood parasites and acute osteomyelitis in a non-avian dinosaur (Sauropoda, Titanosauria) from the Upper Cretaceous Adamantina Formation, Bauru Basin, Southeast Brazil. Cretaceous Research 118: 104672; doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2020.104672