Osteogenic tumour in Australopithecus sediba: Earliest hominin evidence for neoplastic disease

  • Patrick S. Randolph-Quinney 1. School of Anatomical Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa 2. Evolutionary Studies Institute, School of Geosciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa *Current address: School of Forensic and Applied Sciences, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, Lancashire, United Kingdom http://orcid.org/0000-0003-0694-5868
  • Scott A. Williams 1. Evolutionary Studies Institute, School of Geosciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa 2. Center for the Study of Human Origins, Department of Anthropology, New York University, New York, New York, USA
  • Maryna Steyn School of Anatomical Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Marc R. Meyer Department of Anthropology, School of Social & Behavioral Sciences, Chaffey College, Rancho Cucamonga, California, USA
  • Jacqueline S. Smilg 1. Evolutionary Studies Institute, School of Geosciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa 2. School of Radiation Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa 3. Department of Radiology, Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Steven E. Churchill 1. Evolutionary Studies Institute, School of Geosciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa 2. Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA
  • Edward J. Odes 1. School of Anatomical Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa 2. Evolutionary Studies Institute, School of Geosciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Tanya Augustine School of Anatomical Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Paul Tafforeau European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, Grenoble, France
  • Lee R. Berger 1. Evolutionary Studies Institute, School of Geosciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa 2. DST/NRF South African Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa http://orcid.org/0000-0002-0367-7629
Keywords: Malapa, palaeopathology, neoplasia, taphonomy, osteoma, malignant

Abstract

We describe the earliest evidence for neoplastic disease in the hominin lineage. This is reported from the type specimen of the extinct hominin Australopithecus sediba from Malapa, South Africa, dated to 1.98 million years ago. The affected individual was male and developmentally equivalent to a human child of 12 to 13 years of age. A penetrating lytic lesion affected the sixth thoracic vertebra. The lesion was macroscopically evaluated and internally imaged through phase-contrast X-ray synchrotron microtomography. A comprehensive differential diagnosis was undertaken based on gross- and micro-morphology of the lesion, leading to a probable diagnosis of osteoid osteoma. These neoplasms are solitary, benign, osteoid and bone-forming tumours, formed from well-vascularised connective tissue within which there is active production of osteoid and woven bone. Tumours of any kind are rare in archaeological populations, and are all but unknown in the hominin record, highlighting the importance of this discovery. The presence of this disease at Malapa predates the earliest evidence of malignant neoplasia in the hominin fossil record by perhaps 200 000 years.

Views
  • Abstract 717
  • PDF 208
  • EPUB 51
  • XML 76
  • Supplementary Material 38
Views and downloads are with effect from 11 January 2018
Published
2016-07-28

Most read articles by the same author(s)