Even dinosaurs got cancer!

We regularly talk about cancer in this blog.

And we’ve talked about one aggressive type that can affect dogs (and people) (and rarely cats): bone cancer, aka osteosarcoma.

For the first time ever, scientists just discovered that even dinosaurs got cancer!

The dinosaur in question is a Centrosaurus.

Centrosaurus was a lovely plant-eating “horned dinosaur” that stood 18 foot tall (almost 6 meters) around 76 million years ago.

Scientists from the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology (Alberta, Canada) discovered the bone with cancer in a pile of bones in Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta. The dinosaurs may have died in a flash flood.

The bone in question is a fibula, the small bone along the tibia or shin bone (and the sharp bone in a chicken leg or drumstick). The scientists confirmed the type of cancer via CT scans and under the microscope. The findings were published in the medical journal The Lancet.

A fossil showing evidence of cancer
© Royal Ontario Museum

Why should we care? It’s very interesting from an evolution standpoint. It means that cancer existed when dinosaurs lived, well before mammals and reptiles became two different animals.

Royal Ontario Museum paleontologist David Evans told Smithsonian writer Riley Black: “Dinosaurs can seem like mythical creatures, but they were living, breathing animals that suffered through horrible injuries and diseases. This discovery certainly makes them more real and helps bring them to life.”

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

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Dr. Phil Zeltzman

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a traveling veterinary surgeon in Pennsylvania & New Jersey. An award-winning author, he loves to share his adventures in practice along with information about vet medicine and surgery that can really help your pets. Dr. Zeltzman specializes in orthopedic, neurologic, cancer, and soft tissue surgeries for dogs, cats, and small exotics. By working with local family vets, he offers the best surgical care, safest anesthesia, and utmost pain management to all his patients. Sign up to get an email when he updates his blog, and follow him on Facebook, too!