It Turns Out Dinosaurs Got Colds, Too

The last dinosaurs roamed Earth 65 million years ago. But thanks to fossils and rapidly-progressing scientific technology, we’re learning more about the prehistoric roamers than ever before. For instance, the raptor-like troodontid Mei curled up in a little ball to go to sleep. And then, of course, there’s all we’ve learned about their diets over the years. Chances are you learned about carnivores, herbivores, omnivores, through the dino lens before any other animal. But in what I think is a supremely interesting fact, a team of researchers have published findings suggesting dinosaurs suffered from colds much like humans do. 

A rendering of a diplodocid dinosaur with a respiratory illness
Woodruff, et al. (2022) and Corbin Rainbolt.

The researchers, led by Cary Woodruff, a paleontologist of the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum, discovered the evidence of the dino respiratory infection in a fossil called Dolly. The fossil is a member of the diplodocid dinosaur family, a large long-necked dinosaur. If your brain immediately jumps to something like a brontosaurus, you’re spot on. The famous herbivore is a member of the family. The team published their findings in Nature.

The study focused on a trio of vertebrae from Dolly’s neck, discovering unusual protrusions. According to the press release, their proximity to what would’ve been the dinosaur’s respiratory system suggests the protrusions formed in response to the infection. According to Smithsonian Magazine, where we first saw this, paleontologists uncovered Dolly—whose namesake is the iconic singer—in Montana in 1990. But these specific findings are quite. As the paper notes, it’s the first “avian-style respiratory disorder in a non-avian dinosaur.”

Scans of Dolly the dinosaur's neck showing the abnormal growth
Woodruff, et al.

Naturally, the scientists had a whole lot of empathy for Dolly the dinosaur. As, after all, we’ve all felt under the weather at one point or another. So naturally we feel sorry for any dinosaur with a cold.

Given the likely symptoms this animal suffered from, holding these infected bones in your hands, you can’t help but feel sorry for Dolly,” Woodruff said in a statement. “We’ve all experienced these same symptoms—coughing, trouble breathing, a fever, etc.—and here’s a 150-million-year-old dinosaur that likely felt as miserable as we all do when we’re sick.

Poor Dolly. Hopefully she enjoyed a little prehistoric soup and snuggled up in her favorite bed of leaves.

Top Stories
Trending Topics