Scientists Discover a 255-Million Year Old Tumor

On Thursday, University of Washington researchers discovered the earliest known evidence of a tumor. More specifically, a 255-million year old compound odontoma, a type of tumor found in growing in the gums, inside of a prehistoric mammal.

The tumor was discovered in the lower-jaw of a gorgonopsid, a predecessor to modern day mammal. The study was published this week in the Journal of the American medical Association Oncology.

Program director at the National Science Foundation’s Division of Earth Sciences, Judy Skog announced in a news release the results of the study. “Until now, the earliest known occurrence of this tumor was about one million years ago, in fossil mammals,” Judy Skog confirmed. “The discovery suggests that the suspected cause of an odontoma isn’t tied solely to traits in modern species, as had been thought.”

Gorgonopsians existed 255 million years ago and are considered a type of synapsid, a mixture between reptiles and mammals and contain physical features of both animals.

The lead author in the study, Megan Whitney, explained “To understand when and how our mammalian features evolved, we have to study fossils of synapsids like the gorgonopsians.”

Odontoma’s are a type of tumor that results in regular dental tissue developing abnormally. Typically, dental tissue will start growing in the jaw causing damage and pain to the jawline. A compound odontoma is the formation of dental tissue but, without actual denticles, individual teeth. Teenagers are the ones to get diagnosed with Odontoma.

This discovery coincides with a recent study published in the journal of “Current Biology” that dinosaurs may have evolved more slowly than previously thought.

Dinosaur Fossils
Stock Photo: LONDON, UK – DECEMBER 11: Visitor looking at pliosaur fossilised skeleton at the Natural History Museum. December 11, 2014 in London. (Nando Machado /

Fossil remains of 230-million-year old dinosaur were discovered in Brazil suggesting two different dinosaurs and dinosaur precursors – early evolved species- lived alongside each other for millions of years. Suggesting evolution was a gradual progression.

Max Langer at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil released a statement regarding the findings, “We now know for sure that dinosaurs and dinosaur precursors lived alongside one another and that the rise of dinosaurs was more gradual, not a fast overtaking of other animals of the time. The fossils also show that the first dinosaurs likely fed on “all kinds of small animals, but most probably not plants,” Langer said in a journal news release.


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