Transylvania Dwarf Duck-Billed Dinosaur Had a Facial Tumor

Posted on July 9, 2016

Telmatosaurus with facial tumor

A dwarf duck-billed dinosaur from Transylvania suffered from a facial tumor. This is the first-ever record of a tumorous facial swelling found in a fossil. The ameloblastoma is located on the hadrosaur's lower left jaw in the above drawing.

The Telmatosaurus transsylvanicus fossil is estimated to be 67 to 69 million years old. It was found in the Valley of the Dinosaurs in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Hateg County Dinosaurs Geopark in Transylvania, Romania. The international group of researchers included Kate Acheson, a PhD student at the University of Southampton and was led by Dr. Zoltan Csiki-Sava of the University of Bucharest, Romania.

Acheson says in a statement, "This discovery is the first ever described in the fossil record and the first to be thoroughly documented in a dwarf dinosaur. Telmatosaurus is known to be close to the root of the duck-billed dinosaur family tree, and the presence of such a deformity early in their evolution provides us with further evidence that the duck-billed dinosaurs were more prone to tumours than other dinosaurs."

An ameloblastoma is a tumorous, benign, non-cancerous growth known to afflict the jaws of humans and other mammals. The scientists say it likely would not have caused the dinosaur any pain during its early stages of development. The dinosaur died before it reached adulthood. It is not possible to determine the hadrosaur's cause of death because a complete fossil was not found.

Dr. Csiki-Sava says, "We know from modern examples that predators often attack a member of the herd that looks a little different or is even slightly disabled by a disease. The tumour in this dinosaur had not developed to its full extent at the moment it died, but it could have indirectly contributed to its early demise."

A research paper on the findings was published in the journal, Nature.

Image: Mihai Dumbrava