Ice Age saber-tooth cats and dire wolves experienced a high incidence of bone disease in their joints, according to a study published July 12, 2023 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Hugo Schmökel of the Evidensia Academy, Sweden and colleagues.
Osteochondrosis is a developmental bone disease known to affect the joints of vertebrates, including humans and various domesticated animals. However, the disease has not been fully documented in wild species, and published cases are rare. In this study, Schmökel and colleagues identified traces of this disease in fossil limb bones of Ice Age saber-tooth cats (Smilodon fatalis) and dire wolves (Aenocyon dirus) from about 55,000 to 12,000 years ago. years ago.
Researchers examined more than 1,000 toe bones of saber-tooth cats and more than 500 toe bones of dire wolves from the Late Pleistocene La Brea Tar Pits, finding small defects in many of the bones that consistent with a specific manifestation of bone disease called osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD). These defects are most common in the shoulder and knee joints, with an incidence as high as 7% of the examined bones, higher than that seen in modern species.
This study is limited to isolated bones from one fossil locality, so further study of other fossil sites may reveal patterns of spread of this disease, and from there may shed light on aspects in the life of these animals.
It remains unclear, for example, whether these combined problems hinder the hunting abilities of these predators. In addition, OCD is often found in modern dogs that are highly inbred, so it is possible that the high incidence of the disease in these fossil animals may be a sign of population decline as these ancient species approach extinction.
The authors added, “This study adds to the growing literature on Smilodon and dire wolf paleopathology, made possible by the unparalleled large sample sizes at the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum. This collaboration between of paleontologists and veterinarians confirm that these animals, although they The large predators that lived in difficult times and are now extinct, share the common diseases of cats and dogs in our homes today. ”
Hugo Schmökel et al, Subchondral defects similar to osteochondrosis dissecans in the joint surfaces of the extinct saber-toothed cat Smilodon fatalis and dire wolf Aenocyon dirus, 1999. PLOS ONE (2023). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0287656
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Citation: Ice Age saber-tooth cats and dire wolves suffered from painful joints, research finds (2023, July 13) retrieved 13 July 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-07 -ice-age-saber-tooth-cats-dire.html
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