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Oddest couple ever found
Date:6/21/2013

Synchrotron imaging reveals odd couple - 250 million years ago, a mammal forerunner and an amphibian shared a burrow.

Scientists from South Africa, Australia and France 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. 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 behavior, may have been a crucial adaptation that allowed mammal ancestors to survive the P-T extinction.

The results of this research resulted in a paper entitled Synchrotron reveals Early Triassic odd couple: injured amphibian and aestivating therapsid share burrow and that is published in the scientific journal, PLoS ONE, on Friday, 21 June 2013 at 23:00 SA Standard Time.

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 fossilized burrows discovered in the Karoo Basin of South Afr
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Contact: Erna van Wyk
erna.vanwyk@wits.ac.za
27-011-717-4023
University of the Witwatersrand
Source:Eurekalert

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