Common Avian Infection Plagued the Tyrant Dinosaurs

Wolff, Ewan D. S., Salisbury, Steven W., Horner, John R. and Varricchio, David J. (2009) Common Avian Infection Plagued the Tyrant Dinosaurs. PLoS One, 4 9: e7288.1-e7288.7. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007288


Author Wolff, Ewan D. S.
Salisbury, Steven W.
Horner, John R.
Varricchio, David J.
Title Common Avian Infection Plagued the Tyrant Dinosaurs
Journal name PLoS One   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1932-6203
Publication date 2009-09-30
Year available 2009
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0007288
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 4
Issue 9
Start page e7288.1
End page e7288.7
Total pages 7
Place of publication San Francisco, CA, United States
Publisher Public Library of Science
Collection year 2010
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Background: Tyrannosaurus rex and other tyrannosaurid fossils often display multiple, smooth-edged full-thickness erosive lesions on the mandible, either unilaterally or bilaterally. The cause of these lesions in the Tyrannosaurus rex specimen FMNH PR2081 (known informally by the name ‘Sue’) has previously been attributed to actinomycosis, a bacterial bone infection, or bite wounds from other tyrannosaurids.
Methodology/Principal Findings: We conducted an extensive survey of tyrannosaurid specimens and identified ten individuals with full-thickness erosive lesions. These lesions were described, measured and photographed for comparison with one another. We also conducted an extensive survey of related archosaurs for similar lesions. We show here that these lesions are consistent with those caused by an avian parasitic infection called trichomonosis, which causes similar abnormalities on the mandible of modern birds, in particular raptors.
Conclusions/Significance: This finding represents the first evidence for the ancient evolutionary origin of an avian transmissible disease in non-avian theropod dinosaurs. It also provides a valuable insight into the palaeobiology of these now extinct animals. Based on the frequency with which these lesions occur, we hypothesize that tyrannosaurids were commonly infected by a Trichomonas gallinae-like protozoan. For tyrannosaurid populations, the only non-avian dinosaur group that show trichomonosis-type lesions, it is likely that the disease became endemic and spread as a result of antagonistic intraspecific behavior, consumption of prey infected by a Trichomonas gallinae-like protozoan and possibly even cannibalism. The severity of trichomonosis-related lesions in specimens such as Tyrannosaurus rex FMNH PR2081 and Tyrannosaurus rex MOR 980, strongly suggests that these animals died as a direct result of this disease, mostly likely through starvation.
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Article # e7288

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: 2010 Higher Education Research Data Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
 
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Created: Mon, 08 Mar 2010, 12:31:31 EST by Hayley Ware on behalf of School of Biological Sciences