Even dinosaurs died from coughing, sneezing, and fever

Paleontologists – fossil scientists – have found that dinosaurs have died from respiratory infections, such as coughing, sneezing, and fever.  

In February 2022, palaeontologists documented their evidence that a respiratory infection killed a 15-year-old diplodocid dinosaur. 

Scientists knew from their studies with fossils that dinosaurs broke their bones, got osteoarthritis, and even had cancer, but now they have found evidence of dinosaurs dying from coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and fever. The respiratory infection was detectable in traces left in the dinosaur’s bones which became fossilised. The respiratory infection would have led to an early death.

The fossil dinosaur, called MOR 7029, or Dolly the Dinosaur, is a specimen from the Jurassic period of about 150 million years ago. Dolly the Dinosaur had a large, long neck, ate grass and plants, and was 18 metres (60 feet) long. She was found in 1990 in Montana, America.

Palaeontologists at the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum in Malta, Montana, found unusual protrusions (bony growths) in three of Dolly’s neck bones, that were once attached to air sacs as part of the dinosaur’s respiratory (breathing) system. CT scans revealed an infection, and further research showed that Dolly had a fungal infection similar to aspergillosis, a respiratory illness. Even in humans, without treatment, aspergillosis can lead to death. It is likely that Dolly, who died around the age of 15, had symptoms similar to human pneumonia – couging, sneezing, runny nose, and fever. 

Journal reference: Scientific ReportsDOI: DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-05761-3

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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