Since I learned about the Broomistega and Thinaxodon that were discovered curled up with one another in a once flooded burrow – I haven’t stopped thinking about them.
Above is an informative video that goes into great scientific detail but let me give you the gist from someone who has formed an unhealthy attachment to two extinct animals.
Way back when – the Triassic period to be exact- in southern Africa, there were this little amphibian-like creatures called Broomistegas. Broomistegas were not burrowing animals per say but when they needed someplace to hide, they would go into other animals’ burrows and take shelter there (as long as no one was trying to eat them there). This little Broomistega from 250 million years ago we’re going to talk about was hurt. Our Broomistega – who I have affectionately named Broom – was young and had a few broken ribs that made it hard for them to move and breath, especially in the hot arid air of South Africa. Broom also had two small holes in his head most likely made by the teeth of an animal that had unsuccessfully tried to eat them. So, to get out of that direct sunlight and to safety, the little Broom went into a burrow to hide out and heal.
Inside said burrow was a Thrinaxodon. A Thrinaxodon was a carnivorous animal with fur that was roughly the size of a fox. You’d think that Broom running into the burrow of Thrina – our Thrinaxodon – would have meant Broom was about to be lunch but that actually isn’t what happened. Thrina was in the burrow but was either in this deep sleep or just didn’t give a shit about young, hurt Broom was coming to hang out.
Before you ask, yes, they were both alive in the burrow when the tragedy struck.
While the two were inside, a flash flood hit and filled the burrow. There was no escape for our Broom and Thrina. The two resigned to their fate and curled up together as they were drowned and crushed to death. The two remained frozen in place for more than 250 million years.
Now flash way the fuck forward to 1975, paleontologist James Kitching pulls this encased burrow out of the ground and leaves it as if for years. He saw Thrina’s skull and knew there was at least a Thrinaxodon in there. But in 2013, scientists took a radiation scan of the solid fossils and discovered the beautifully tragic final moments of Broom and Thrina’s lives.
Thrina is the white skeleton encasing the little Broom, who is coloured in grey/green.
TikTok has been all enraptured with these two for a while and ever since I did a deep dive, I haven’t stopped thinking about them.
It’s crazy to think that even 250 million years ago, the idea of comfort when inevitably faced with your mortality occurring between animals, was something that happened. In most cases, Broom and Thrina would be prey and predator – i.e. not pals- but when things were coming to an end, they took comfort in the fact that they weren’t alone. I honestly haven’t stopped talking or thinking about this (ask my friends). It’s just one of those mysteries of life, a beautifully tragic moment that has transcended through time. I don’t know, I just felt like it was a fascinating story that I wanted to share. I’ll spare you the trauma of a Broomistega X Thrinaxodon fanfic I saw on TikTok, so thank your stars.
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Featured Image: Irene Goede on Flickr