Mandibular Osteomyelitis in Ovis canadensis

I mentioned on Monday that a few of the forensic anthropology students are working with Dave and I to put together a presentation for the Paleopathology Conference in Tennessee for next April.  They are focusing on mandibular osteomyelitis (osteo = bone, myelo = marrow, itis = inflammation), or “lumpy jaw”, which is an infection caused by a bacteria of the Actinomyces species and can lead to severe dental abscesses, and tooth and bone loss and decay.  Although this bacteria can live naturally within the saliva, lungs, and liver of a variety of bovines, it will infect the bone if given a way into the tissue, such as by way of previous trauma or infection but most commonly by severe dental impactions of plant matter.  While we don’t have tissue samples to test for the bacteria itself, we are attempting to come up with data from our collection relying on evidence in the skeletal remains of our bighorn sheep.  One of the articles I have been looking at (Source 3 below) mentions that horn development in males can be impacted by the infection, which would explain the massively enlarged cranium of the young adult male in the top pictures.  You can see the gigantic, gaping hole in the right side of its mandible in the third picture.  

If I could go to school indefinitely, my next degree would be as a veterinary pathologist specializing in wild animals.  How awesome would that be?! 

  1. Enviornment and Natural Resources
  2. Short Communications
  3. Lumpy Jaw in Wild Sheep and its Evolutionary Implications