Deadly human bone cancer found in 240-million-year-old turtle

James Marshall
Февраля 9, 2019

Now, 240 million years later, the Triassic period turtle is finally receiving a diagnosis: bone cancer.

The fossil provides rare evidence of the cancer's existence long before modern pollutants and unhealthy lifestyles.

As many pet owners might know, cancer is not unique to humans. This is a case study about a highly malignant bone tumor on the femur of a shell-less stem-turtle.

In order to detect cancer, the researchers led by Bruce Rothschild, a research associate at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, used microscopy and computerized tomography to peer inside the ancient turtle's left femur. Though you might mistake Pappochelys for some type of lizard by outward looks alone, paleontologists who first described it in 2015 believe the shell-free animal was one of the earliest species in the turtle family tree. (Fully shelled turtles didn't appear until about 205 million to 210 million years ago, at least according to the fossil record).

The images revealed a mass in a layer of the bone called the periosteum. Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish cancer from an infection in ancient bones, Rothschild noted. Researchers pegged the fossilized cancer as periosteal osteosarcoma, noting it was nearly identical to osteosarcomas afflicting humans today, they reported earlier this week in JAMA Oncology. If that was the case here as well, the turtle would have become weak and less able to escape or feed, making it vulnerable to predators and other diseases. Credit: Haridy et al, JAMA. New research has identified bone cancer in an individual of the species.

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