The paleontologist at the University of Bristol (United Kingdom), Judyth Sassoon, discovered that pliosaurs suffered from arthritis, one of the most widespread diseases among human beings today. Pliosaurs were whale-shaped reptiles that lived 150 million years ago.
Sassoon's research is based on the analysis of the remains of a specific specimen It is about eight meters long and has 20-centimeter long fangs. Examining the skull, Sassoon discovered that the left jaw was eroded and moved to the side. This, added to various tooth marks on the lower jaw, would indicate that the reptile suffered from arthritis for many years.
Sassoon understands that it can be "surprising" what the pliosaur could survive with a deviated jaw, but explains that, even so, the animal was able to feed despite suffering from the disease. The paleontologist also wonders how it is possible that the rest of her species did not take advantage of this "weakened specimen”. Its most likely explanation is that the size of the creature would command respect to the rest.
Pliosaurs had heads very similar to today's crocodiles, bodies similar to those of a whale, the short neck and enormous limbs. These animals were one of the main predators in the marine environment, so the other species did not hunt them and could thus reach an advanced age.
This old age is what would lead to wear on the bones, since other species do not usually show samples and arthritis is rarely seen in fossils. Sassoon comments: «Our findings show that as these animals aged, they, like humans, who are also the top predators, succumbed to the diseases of old age. And that's an interesting and new observation”.
Passionate about History, he has a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication. Since he was little he loved history and ended up exploring the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries above all.