Rainer Schoch/Stuttgart Natural History Museum

Deadly human bone cancer found in 240-million-year-old turtle

240-million-year-old turtle died with a type of bone cancer that still haunts the living, National Geographic reports. The ancient turtle’s fossilized hind leg included a malignancy the researchers identified as a type of bone cancer that strikes about 800 Americans each year. Cancer is extraordinarily rare in the fossil record because it typically affects soft tissues that aren’t preserved. Paleontologists unearthed this relative of modern turtles (Pappochelys rosinae) in 2008 near Stuttgart, Germany. Researchers pegged the fossilized cancer as periosteal osteosarcoma, noting it was almost identical to osteosarcomas afflicting humans today, they reported earlier this week in JAMA Oncology. This 240-million-year-old cancer is the earliest case ever recorded in an amniote—the group including reptiles, birds, and mammals—suggesting cancers of today and the genes underlying them have roots deep in evolutionary time.

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