The First Toothache

Why don't sharks need dentists? Believe it or not this isn't the set up of a rather surrealist joke but instead it's an interesting biological question. Sharks continuously loose their teeth throughout their life time and can have up to 30,000 teeth over that period. That's over 900 times as many as you or I... Continue Reading →

Tuberculosis in the Triassic

Very few infectious diseases leave their traces on your bones. This is a problem for palaeontologists because only bones tend to get fossilised, and soft tissues are vanishing rare in the geological record. Even when these are preserved they're extremely unlikely to reveal signs of any infection the animal might have suffered. Therefore very few... Continue Reading →

Neanderthal Inner Ear Infections?

Did Neanderthals die out because they suffered from chronic ear infections? That’s the possibility raised by a new study that has attempted to reconstruct the structure of the Neanderthal inner ear. Today middle ear infections are usually a minor hazard of childhood that clear up quickly following a course of antibiotics. Untreated though ear infections... Continue Reading →

An Ancient Case of Paget’s Disease

A new study has identified a potential case of Paget’s disease in the bones of a 298 million year old lizard-like animal. The results come from a study of two fused tail vertebrae recovered from a fossilised cave system in Richards Spur, Oklahoma, USA. Today Paget’s disease is a relatively rare condition, which mainly effects... Continue Reading →

Syphilis: New World or Old?

Earlier this month the discovery of a 700 year old skeleton showing signs of congenital syphilis was announced by the Medical University of Vienna. Although this might not sound immediately controversial the skeleton itself comes from St Pölten in Austria and that is unusual because syphilis was thought to have been imported to Europe from... Continue Reading →

When Is A Disease Not A Disease?

Today we're moving out of the arena of strict palaeopathology and instead we're going to look at something a little different. The topic is evolutionary medicine, which is in part the study of how diseases have evolved and how we have evolved in response. So we'll start with a question: when is a disease not... Continue Reading →

Oldest Case of Leukemia Discovered

Researchers from the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment and the University of Tübingen in Germany announced earlier this month (August 2015) that they have identified the oldest known case of leukemia in the archaeological record. Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow. It causes the patient's body to produce huge numbers of... Continue Reading →

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