Could dinosaurs have caught COVID-19?
After all, how would a Tyrannosaurus Rex put on a facemask?
We can’t know for sure if a dinosaur could be infected with COVID-19, but studies of coronavirus genomes indicate that they originated after the dinosaurs went extinct. There is evidence that dinosaurs were affected by other diseases, however.
Palaeontologists have identified many ‘palaeopathologies’ on dinosaur bones, which indicate various maladies including bone cancer, gout, a bone infection called osteomyelitis and infestation from parasites.
In one famous case, the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton nicknamed ‘Sue’ was found to have many holes in its lower jawbone. The holes are similar to injuries seen in modern-day birds infected with a parasite called Trichomonas, which makes it difficult to swallow and breathe.
Asked by: Christian Jones, Llanelli
- If the dinosaurs didn’t go extinct, could they have developed a civilised society?
- Cats and coronavirus: Is my pet at risk of COVID-19?
- Why were birds the only dinosaurs to survive the mass extinction?
- Could a dinosaur survive in today’s climate conditions?
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Steve is a professor and palaeontologist at the University of Edinburgh and the author of the book The Rise And Reign Of The Mammals (£20, Picador), a 325-million-year odyssey of mammalian evolution and the people who study mammal fossils.
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