Dinosaurs Inside and Out

Abnormal Dinosaur Bones

Do dinosaur bones show evidence of arthritis, a common affliction in humans?

Yes, some dinosaur bones show signs of certain types of arthritis, especially osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis. In humans, osteoarthritis, or degenerative arthritis, is common in the elderly. It is the increased deterioration of cartilage around the bone due to age. Inflammatory arthritis, or gout, in humans usually occurs when crystals of uric acid are deposited in a joint. The excess amounts of uric acid are usually unexplainable, but it has often been tied to dietary excesses.

In the vast majority of cases, dinosaur bones show almost no sign of osteoarthritis, leading some paleontologists to theorize these creatures had highly constrained joints, or bone joints with little rotational movement. Two specimens of Iguanodon, however, were found to have evidence of osteoarthritis in the ankle bones, or weight-bearing parts of the body. Because scientists don’t know the life spans of dinosaurs, they also don’t know whether the arthritis was caused by old age. In addition, two tyrannosaurid dinosaur remains showed evidence of inflammatory arthritis in the hand and toe bones—possibly the result of a rich, red meat diet.


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