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A Rare Human Disease Found Hidden in an Ancient Dinosaur Tail Still Plagues Us Today

It lived in a place we now call Alberta, Canada, but this was in an ancient time, long before any names existed.

It was a young hadrosaur, a giant ‘duck-billed’ herbivore, and something was wrong with it. We don’t know what killed this dinosaur, but at some point, it swished its long, heavy tail for the last time, lay down on the prairie, and died.

Today – at least 66 million years later – all that is known to remain of this magnificent creature are 11 fossilised bone segments from that ancient tail, and scientists have discovered something pretty incredible embedded inside them.

Of the 11 pieces of tail vertebrae recovered, eight segments exhibited various pathological conditions, with some featuring “unusual lesions” never before seen in dinosaurs.

Now, many millions of years after the hadrosaur’s death, the nature of its strange affliction has finally been diagnosed.

“There were large cavities in two of the vertebrae segments,” explains evolutionary anatomist Hila May from Tel Aviv University in Israel.

“They were extremely similar to the cavities produced by tumours associated with the rare disease Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH) that still exists today in humans.”