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As a domain that was originally located between medicine, anthropology, and archaeology, palaeopathology also illuminates findings in vertebrate paleontology and helps to obtain information about the type, causes, distribution, and frequency of diseases and to allow statements about life history and life circumstances of a certain fossil organism. We are not only interested in interpreting traumas (bone fractures) as the result of physical violence, but also in discovering tumours, infectious diseases, and degenerative changes to explain a lifestyle of an animal.

We are currently focusing on the potential diseaes of our T. rex Tristan. Here, we are investigating peculiar swellings at the jaw bones of this impressive Tyrannosaurus, which comes from the Upper Cretaceous of Montana, USA. A comparison with proven pathologies of other dinosaurs and theropods will later allow statements about possible predispositions of certain diseases.

Pathological studies on the trunk skeleton of fossil whales from the Miocene of Schleswig-Holstein complement our current research on this field.


  • Patrick Asbach, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin
  • Charlie Hamm, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Selected publications

  • Witzmann, F., Rothschild, B.M., Hampe, O., Sobral, G., Gubin, Y.M. & Asbach, P. 2014. Congenital malformations of the vertebral column in ancient amphibians. Anatomia, Histologia, Embryologia 43(2), 90-102.
  • Hampe, O., Witzmann, F. & Asbach, P. 2014. A benign bone-forming tumour (osteoma) on the skull of a fossil balaenopterid whale from the Pliocene of Chile. Alcheringa 38(2), 266-272.
  • Witzmann, F. Schwarz-Wings, D., Hampe, O., Fritsch, G. & Asbach, P. .2014. Evidence of spondyloarthropathy in the spine of a phytosaur (Reptilia: Archosauriformes) from the Late Triassic of Halberstadt, Germany. PloS ONE 9(1), e85511.
  • Witzmann, F., Hampe, O., Rothschild, B.M., Joger, U., Kosma, R., Schwarz, D. & Asbach, P. 2016. Subchondral cysts at synovial vertebral joints as analogies of Schmorl’s nodes in a sauropod dinosaur from Niger. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 36(2), e1080719.