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Holes of Unknown Origin Present in Tyrannosaurus rex’s Jawbone

A brand new evaluation of enigmatic pathologies within the decrease jaw of Sue the T. rex — one of many largest, most in depth, and greatest preserved Tyrannosaurus rex specimens ever discovered — reveals all of the traits of wound therapeutic within the absence of an infection.

Dr. O’Connor with the cranium of Sue the T. rex on the Subject Museum. Picture credit score: Katharine Uhrich, Subject Museum.

“These holes in Sue’s jaw have been a thriller for many years. No one is aware of how they fashioned, and there have been a lot of guesses,” stated Dr. Jingmai O’Connor, a paleontologist on the Subject Museum of Pure Historical past.

One early speculation was that Sue suffered from a fungus-like bacterial an infection, however that was later proven to be unlikely. It was re-hypothesized that this particular person had a protozoan an infection.

Protozoans are microbes with extra complicated cell constructions than micro organism. There are many protozoan-caused maladies on the market; one frequent such illness known as trichomoniasis, attributable to a microbe known as Trichomonas vaginalis. People can get contaminated with trichomoniasis, however different animals can catch it too.

“Trichomoniasis is present in birds, and there’s a falcon specimen with harm to its jaw, so some paleontologists thought {that a} Trichomonas-like protozoan may need brought on related harm to Sue,” Dr. O’Connor stated.

“So for this research, we needed to match the harm in Sue’s jaw with Trichomonas harm in different animals to see if the speculation match.”

Of their research, Dr. O’Connor and her colleagues took high-resolution pictures of the holes in Sue’s jaw and analyzed them for indicators of bone regrowth.

They then in contrast the holes to healed breaks in different fossil skeletons.

Additionally they examined the healed bones round trepanation holes made in skulls by Inca surgeons and healers in historical Peru.

“We discovered that Sue’s accidents had been in keeping with these different examples of bone harm and therapeutic. There are related little spurs of bone reforming,” Dr. O’Connor stated.

“No matter brought on these holes didn’t kill Sue, and the animal survived lengthy sufficient for the bones to start repairing themselves.”

The holes in the jaw of Sue the T. rex. Image credit: Rothschild et al., doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2022.105353.

The holes within the jaw of Sue the T. rex. Picture credit score: Rothschild et al., doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2022.105353.

The authors additionally examined a hen skeleton with historical past of trichomoniasis.

“You do see indicators of an infection, and they’re at the back of the throat, however there aren’t holes bored by the jaw like we see in Sue. Trichomonas, or an identical protozoan, doesn’t appear to suit,” Dr. O’Connor stated.

“So what did trigger these holes, if not an an infection? We expect they’re chunk or extra possible claw marks, however I don’t suppose that is smart.”

“The holes are solely discovered at the back of the jaw. So if they’re chunk marks, why are there not additionally holes on the entrance of the jaw? And also you don’t see rows of holes, or indentations, such as you’d see from a row of enamel, even a row the place the enamel are completely different heights. They’re simply random, in every single place.”

The staff’s speculation means that the claw marks are the results of courtship conduct.

“But when chunk or claw marks are off the desk, there are many potentialities remaining to clarify the holes — a few of which we possibly haven’t considered but. However she’s eager to assist determine it out,” Dr. O’Connor stated.

“The extra I began studying about these jaw holes, the extra I used to be like, ‘That is actually bizarre.’ What I like about paleontology is making an attempt to resolve mysteries, so my curiosity is certainly piqued.”

The staff’s paper was printed within the journal Cretaceous Analysis.


Bruce Rothschild et al. 2022. Nearer examination doesn’t help an infection as trigger for enigmatic Tyrannosaurus rex mandibular pathologies. Cretaceous Analysis 140: 105353; doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2022.105353

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