Prehistoric 'Loch Ness Monsters' suffered from arthritis, fossils say
Monsters of the deep suffered the ravages associated with old age
Ancient creatures resembling theoretical "Loch Ness Monsters" developed
arthritis in their jaws, revealing that even such lethal killers could
suffer from and eventually succumb to diseases associated with old age.
Scientists reached that conclusion while investigating the fossil of an
extinct dinosaur known as a pliosaur. The fossil was apparently an old
female that extended some 26 feet. It had a 10-foot-long crocodile-like
head, short neck, whale-like body and four flippers to propel it through
water to hunt down prey.
With huge jaws and teeth about 8 inches long, this pliosaur could have ripped most other animals apart.
With huge jaws and teeth about 8 inches long, this pliosaur could have ripped most other animals apart. Paleontologists found this specimen was apparently afflicted with an arthritis-like disease.
Benton analyzed an approximately 150-million-year-old specimen of Pliosaurus that had been unearthed in 1994 by fossil collector Simon Carpenter. The fossil has since been in the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery in England.
The beast would have lived in what is now southern England, back when the area was covered in warm, shallow seas. "Imagine the Mediterranean or Florida," Benton said.
The skeleton had a low ridge of bone running from front to back on top of its skull. Scientists deduced it was female because males were thought to have taller ridges. Its large size and fused skull bones suggested maturity. The investigators noticed the reptile had signs of a degenerative condition similar to human arthritis.
"The most exciting aspect of this research for me is the arthritic condition, which has never been seen before in these or similar Mesozoic reptiles," researcher Judyth Sassoon told LiveScience.
The degenerative condition had eroded the pliosaur's left jaw joint, knocking its lower jaw askew.
"In the same way that aging humans develop arthritic hips, this old lady developed an arthritic jaw and survived with her disability for some time," Sassoon said. "But an unhealed fracture on the jaw indicates that at some time the jaw weakened and eventually broke.
"With a broken jaw, the pliosaur would not have been able to feed, and that final accident probably led to her demise."
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Pliosaur, arthritis, dinosaurs, prehistory
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