Fossil from 275 million years ago shows oldest abscess
By BBC NEWS - BBC NEWS SCIENCE & ENVIRONMENT
Added: Wed, 20 Apr 2011 11:02:50 UTC
Thanks to HardNosedSkeptic for the link.
The first-known occurrence of an oral infection has been found in a 275-million-year-old fossil.
The dark area in the centre of the jaw is the evidence of what would have been a painful abscess
The Labidosaurus hamatus fossil, whose detailed analysis using X-rays is described in Naturwissenschaften journal, shows signs of an abscess.
The animal was among the first to have just one set of teeth, rather than continuously replacing them.
The adaptation to a plant-based diet would have made them more susceptible, as humans are, to tooth decay and loss.
The find predates the previous earliest-known example of tooth decay by some 200 million years, and also represents the oldest-known infection in a terrestrial vertebrate.
L hamataus was one of the first fully terrestrial reptiles, and with the evolution from a watery to land-based life came a change in diet.
For millions of years, the animal's predecessors had teeth that continuously replaced themselves; new teeth grew into the inner side of the jaw and, when the loosely-connected outer teeth fell out, rose up to take their place.
However, the diet of tough plant matter that land-based reptiles began to eat did not lend itself to weak teeth, so animals like L hamatus over millions of years evolved more deeply-anchored teeth.
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