Tumor Found In 255-Million-Year-old Fossil

Posted: Dec 9 2016, 6:06am CST | by , Updated: Dec 9 2016, 6:12am CST, in Latest Science News


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Tumor Found in 255-Million-Year-old Fossil
A histological thin section of the gorgonopsid lower jaw, taken near the top of the canine root. The dark area on the right is bone. The backward C-shaped structure on the left is the canine root. The cluster of small circles resemble miniature teeth, indicative of compound odontoma. Photo Credit: Megan Whitney/Christian Sidor/University of Washington
  • Dental Tumor found in a 255 Million Years Old Mammal Forerunner Fossil

A tumor has been found in a mammal forerunner fossil that is 255 million years old. This is the first such discovery of its kind.

It is a forerunner of mammals whose fossil was unearthed recently. It contained a tumor which was quite a fascinating find. When the researchers cut into its fossilized jaw, they were not ready for the surprise and shock that they were about to witness.

There were actually more teeth beneath its teeth. This was actually a form of benign tumor that was composed of small tooth-like structures.

It was in fact compound odontoma. This is a type of tumor that is very common in mammals even today. Yet the beast to which this fossil belonged lived some 255 million years ago.

That is a period on the timeline that is way before the mammals showed up. Scientists say that it is probably the oldest known example of compound odontoma known so far.

This appears to be a very ancient benign tumor of sorts. Before this find, the odontoma belonged to the Ice Age fossils. That was just one million years ago on the time scale.

Therefore this was a prototypical mammal that lived before the period of mammals actually began on the planet. One thing which is for sure is that such benign tumors are not confined to the modern period.

They are very much a prehistoric phenomenon too. Odontoma is basically a series of tiny toothlets. These are mixed up with dentin and enamel. They then grow within the soft tissue of the jaw and buccal cavity causing painful swellings in the process.

Also the teeth pattern can be disturbed thanks to this otherwise benign tumor. These odontoma do not metastasize and thus there is no danger from the tumors except for maybe a little pain.

However, since they cause needless pain, modern dentists tend to remove these compound odontoma. Of course, surgery was out of the question for this poor species of mammal that had this disease so long ago.

The creature was called a gorgonopsian. It lived in a pre-dinosaur era. It belonged to the synapsid family of creatures. Actually these creatures were both mammals and reptiles since they combined the features of the two.

There teeth structure was compared with the two to see which they more closely resembled. It was seen how the fossil record shows things which would have otherwise been missed out on.

A research paper about this discovery got published on December 8 in the Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology.

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