The fossilized remains of an immature diplodocid may provide the first evidence of a unique respiratory infection in a dinosaur. The study has been published in Scientific Reports. The study will increase our understanding of the illnesses that affected dinosaurs.
The specimen was discovered in southwest Montana, U.S. It dates back to the Late Jurassic Period of the Mesozoic Era. Scientists examined three of the cervical vertebrae of the specimen. They identified never-before-seen abnormal bony protrusions. It had an unusual shape and texture.
These protrusions were located in an area of each bone. There they would have been penetrated by air-filled sacs. These air sacs would have ultimately connected to the specimen’s lungs. It formed part of the dinosaur’s complex respiratory system. CT imaging of the irregular protrusions revealed something. They were made of abnormal bone which formed in response to an infection.
Scientists suggested they formed in response to a respiratory infection. These spread into these neck vertebrae via the air sacs. They caused the irregular bone growths. Scientists observed this respiratory infection. It could have been caused by a fungal infection similar to aspergillosis. It is a common respiratory illness that affects birds and reptiles today. It can lead to bone infections. The fossilized infection also has important anatomical implications for the respiratory system of sauropod dinosaurs.
Scientists suggested the specimen had been infected with an aspergillosis-like respiratory infection. It has experienced flu or pneumonia-like symptoms. This includes weight loss, coughing, fever and breathing difficulties. Aspergillosis can be fatal in birds if untreated. The similar infection caused the death of the specimen.