Paleopathology, the study of ancient disease, is a vital way by which we understand the evolution of pathogens, immune systems, healing physiology, and ultimately the environment. Cancer research has focused on its prevalence in various organisms and has found that although some animals have a high propensity for cancer,1 others seem to be resistant.2 The prevalence of cancer in the tree of life is certainly interesting, but its antiquity should be regarded with equal interest considering the increase in human cancer, which has been related to environmental and genetic changes, and the extreme rarity of cancer in the fossil record.3 This study documents bone cancer in a 240-million-year-old reptilian amniote from the Triassic period, which adds an important data point to the history of cancer in tetrapod evolution. Herein, we present a case study of an osteosarcoma, a highly malignant bone tumor, on the femur of the shell-less stem-turtle Pappochelys rosinae4 (Figure 1) from the middle Triassic period of present-day Germany. The appearance of the tumor on this specimen conforms with present-day periosteal osteosarcoma in humans.
Haridy Y, Witzmann F, Asbach P, Schoch RR, Fröbisch N, Rothschild BM. Triassic Cancer—Osteosarcoma in a 240-Million-Year-Old Stem-Turtle. JAMA Oncol. 2019;5(3):425–426. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2018.6766
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