2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
The discovery of the oldest malignant tumor affecting the metatarsal bone of a hominid is reported in a new article in the South African Journal of Science. Among the authors of the publication, the indefatigable Lee Berger is a paleoanthropologist from South Africa who described Australopithecus sedibu and homo ice.
Read this and other news of anthropology on the site Anthropogenesis.ru Paleontologists can confidently say: living things suffered from tumors long before the appearance of man.
The oldest case of this kind is a tumor in a myxine from the Upper Devonian (more than 350 million years ago). Another find is an osteoma with local hyperostosis in a 300-million-year-old fish.
Tumors have been found in both Jurassic and Cretaceous dinosaurs and Pleistocene mammoths.
As for hominids, the oldest tumor was found in Australopithecus sediba - 2 million years ago, a guy from South Africa suffered from a benign osteoma of one of the vertebrae. Another, more recent example is fibrous dysplasia that struck the rib of a Neanderthal man from Krapina 120 thousand years ago. Say, a few cases over 2 million years are very few? Of course, not enough. However, bone tumors are not the most common disease even now, and it is very difficult to detect them on fossil bones, because ancient remains are often fragmentary and deformed.
SK 7923, left 5th metatarsal bone from Svartkrans. Hemispherical tumor visible at the proximal end (left)
A new case of this kind - a find in the South African Svartkrans cave - is reported by the authors of the article. Svartkrans Cave has been famous since 1948, when anthropologist Robert Broome discovered the remains of parantropes and ancient people in it. Since then, more than 400 bones of Paranthropus robustus and Homo ergaster have been found in the cave. According to various dating methods, these hominids lived in the area of the cave 1, 5-1, 8 million years ago. Scientists examined the left fifth metatarsal bone from Svartkrans SK 7923. It is hardly possible to establish which species the hominid belonged to - it could have been paranthropus or homo. At one end of the find, there was a proliferation of tissue in the form of a hemispherical tumor measuring 5 by 5 mm. This education has already been paid attention to by specialists who diagnosed a benign tumor, osteoma. However, now the researchers questioned the correctness of the diagnosis and studied the bone using modern methods: they scanned it using microfocus X-ray computed tomography and made a 3d reconstruction. Comparing the possible variants of the disease, the scientists came to the conclusion that by all indications this case is most similar to osteosarcoma. Osteosarcoma or osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer that proceeds very rapidly, affecting the cortical and medullary (medullary) part of the bone. It is important that osteosarcoma often develops in young people, adolescents and even children.
Such tumors are characterized by the Codman triangle - a bone "visor" on the border with the tumor, damage to the cortical layer, filling of the medullary part of the bone. All these signs are observed on the metatarsal of Svartkrans.
What is the uniqueness of the find? The fact is that cancer is often called the disease of the 21st century. Indeed, malignant tumors are one of the most common causes of death in industrialized countries. Anyone will tell you that the origins of this terrible disease lie in poor ecology and improper lifestyle - smoking, alcohol abuse and other excesses. In addition, we have become too long to live. Previously, people simply did not have time to die of cancer - they were mowed down by other reasons.
This view of the origins of the problem was confirmed not only by modern statistics, but also by some works of paleoanthropologists. Thus, an X-ray study of 193 ancient Egyptian mummies did not reveal a single case of malignant neoplasms. Some authors on this basis argued that ancient people did not suffer from cancer at all. As we now see, this is not at all the case. Since osteosarcoma affects young people, this disease could well have occurred in our distant ancestors, despite their short age. But it is worth thinking about the causes of the disease - poor ecology is hardly to blame …
Why have there not been such finds so far? Simply because it is impossible to make a diagnosis without the use of modern technology. The authors of the article believe that many fossil patients have not been examined and are still waiting for their oncologist.
Edward J. Odes, Patrick S. Randolph-Quinney, Maryna Steyn, Zach Throckmorton, Jacqueline S. Smilg, Bernhard Zipfel, Tanya N. Augustine, Frikkie de Beer, Jakobus W. Hoffman, Ryan D. Franklin, Lee R. Berger. Earliest hominin cancer: 1.7-million-year-old osteosarcoma from Swartkrans Cave, South Africa // South African Journal of Science, Volume 112 | Number 7/8, July / August 2016.