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Dinosaurs may be first creatures to develop toothache

Tue

Scientists from China, the USA, and Canada have been studying the fossilised jawbone of a Sinosaurus and have discovered that the animal, presumed to have lived around 190 million years ago, could be the earliest creature to suffer with toothache. X-rays were taken of the teeth and it was found that some of them were damaged, possibly after the dinosaur bit into something hard.

Co-author of the report Xing LiDa told China Daily that ‘It was common for carnivorous dinosaurs to lose teeth, but this specimen we were studying was different. Its tooth socket was completely filled, which indicates the tooth loss was because of dental problems instead of external force.’ The skull was found in Lufeng Basin of the Yunnan province in 2007 and was expected to have 13 or 14 upper teeth, but was found to have several broken teeth still in the sockets. Zing explained the apparent damage, saying ‘When the dinosaur’s teeth were lost or removed while it was alive, the bony socket remodelled over time, so that there was no longer a tooth socket.’

The researchers also found that this kind of problem was common with mammals but not with reptiles, such as dinosaurs. Canadian Palaeontologist Phil R Bell suggested that the Sinosaurus might have damaged its teeth while eating hard nuts, he also added that ‘The study of disease and other abnormalities in the fossil record can reveal unique insights into the behaviour, biology and development of extinct animals. For example, among theropod dinosaurs, injury-related trauma like bites, exostoses, fractures, infection and stress fractures are the overriding cause of osteopathy.’

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