Oddest couple share 250 million year old burrow
Scientists have discovered a world first association while scanning a 250 million year old fossilized burrow from the Karoo Basin of South Africa. The burrow revealed two unrelated vertebrate animals nestled together and fossilized after being trapped by a flash flood event.
June 22, 2013 — Scientists from South Africa, Australia and France have discovered a world first association while scanning a 250 million year old fossilised burrow from the Karoo Basin of South Africa.The burrow revealed two unrelated vertebrate animals nestled together and fossilised after being trapped by a flash flood event. Facing harsh climatic conditions subsequent to the Permo-Triassic (P-T) mass extinction, the amphibian Broomistega and the mammal forerunner Thrinaxodon cohabited in a burrow.Scanning shows that the amphibian, which was suffering from broken ribs, crawled into a sleeping mammal’s shelter for protection. This research suggests that short periods of dormancy, called aestivation, in addition to burrowing behaviour, may have been a crucial adaptation that allowed mammal ancestors to survive the P-T extinction.The international team of scientists was led by Dr Vincent Fernandez from Wits University, South Africa and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France. The other authors from Wits University include Prof. Bruce Rubidge (Director of the newly formed Palaeosciences Centre of Excellence at Wits), Dr Fernando Abdala and Dr Kristian Carlson. Other authors include Dr Della Collins Cook (Indiana University); Dr Adam Yates (Museum of Central Australia) and Dr. Paul Tafforeau (ESRF).After many impressive results obtained on fossils, synchrotron imaging has led to revived interest in the studies of the numerous fossilised burrows discovered in the Karoo Basin of South Africa and dated to 250 million years ago. The first attempt to investigate one of these burrow-casts surprisingly revealed a world-first association of two unrelated animals.The fossil was recovered from sedimentary rock strata in the Karoo Basin. It dates from 250 million years ago, at the beginning of the Triassic Period. At that time, the ecosystem was recovering from the Permo-Triassic mass extinction that wiped out most of life on Earth. …
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