Ancient Aches and Pains

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Ghedoghedo/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Running a marathon is a feat I’d love to accomplish one day. But I’m not so sure my aching knees will ever allow it. At the ripe old age of 27, I may be destined to hustle a mere 5 miles here and there for the rest of my days.

This is something I refused to accept for some time, getting several 13-mile runs under my belt before my joints seriously went on strike. It seems to me that some people are just built for long distances, crossing the finish line after a breezy 26.2 miles on multiple occasions, already gearing up to train for the next race. But, even with knee braces in place, I fear I may never find myself in that position.

Still, I know I’m not alone, and research suggests living beings have been battling aching joints for millennia. Researchers in the UK recently discovered signs of an arthritis-like disease in the jaw of a Pliosaurus, an ancient sea reptile dating from the Upper Jurassic period. The 8-meter long female, found in Westbury, Wiltshire, showed “signs of a degenerative condition similar to human arthritis, that had eroded its left jaw joint, displacing the lower jaw to one side,” according to research conducted by Dr. Judyth Sassoon of Bristol University and published in the journal Palaeontology.

“In the same way that aging humans develop arthritic hips, this old lady developed an arthritic jaw, and survived with her disability for some time,” Sassoon said in a press release. “But an unhealed fracture on the jaw indicates that at some time the jaw weakened and eventually broke.  With a broken jaw, the pliosaur would not have been able to feed and that final accident probably led to her demise.”

That’s right. Dinosaurs may have been formidable, but they weren’t immune to the ailments of old age. And 150 million years ago, applesauce and yogurt weren’t on the menu, meaning arthritis-riddled dinos were eventually doomed to starve. Sassoon said this particular predator carried on with her standard carnivorous diet of fish, squid and other marine reptiles before her failing jaw eventually gave in.

My pain pales in comparison to this poor pliosaur’s predicament. And maybe if she found the strength to carry on, I’ll someday check that marathon off my bucket list. 

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