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First case of respiratory infection in a dinosaur discovered in Montana

Posted at 8:36 AM, Feb 11, 2022

BOZEMAN - The first case of a bird-like respiratory infection in a dinosaur has been discovered, researched, and published, by Director of the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum & Field Station Cary Woodruff.

The specimen, housed at Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, is a sauropod that Woodruff assisted in collecting south of Livingston, back in the 1990s. The specimen, or ‘Dolly’ as it is commonly referred to showed small lumps and growths on a vertebrae bone.

“I’ve looked at sauropod dinosaurs, literally, all over the world, and I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Woodruff said.

Preserved on the bone, these bumps showed signs of a respiratory illness—something Woodruff has never seen before. When studying fossil records, the only indicators to be used are bones and teeth, making it difficult to find causes of death or illnesses that do not relate to bone breakage or fracture.

“I’ve looked at sauropod dinosaurs, literally, all over the world, and I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Woodruff said.

“Not only were these dinosaurs breathing like birds, not only could they get infections like birds, but the fact that the way their immune system worked and responded is much more bird-like than we would have previously known,” Woodruff said.

It can be assumed that the vertebrae bone on ‘Dolly’ was connected in some way to ‘air sacs’, and upon its’ death, the infection from the tissue ‘imprinted’ the bone.

There are no plans for ‘Dolly’ to be displayed at the Museum of the Rockies, but there are often exhibit changes leaving the door open for possibility in the future.

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Preserved on the bone, these bumps showed signs of a respiratory illness—something Woodruff has never seen before. When studying fossil records, the only indicators to be used are bones and teeth, making it difficult to find causes of death or illnesses that do not relate to bone breakage or fracture.