In October 2017, a study was published which stated that a new, near-complete fossilised skeleton of an Ichthyosaur was discovered in Kutch Desert region of Gujarat. Scientists in India did us proud yet again and discovered the 152 million-year-old fossil of an Ichthyosaur, an extinct marine reptile. This was found south of the village of Lodai and was embedded in extremely hard sedimentary rock. This is the first time an Ichthyosaur fossil has been discovered in India. What’s intriguing beyond measure is that this is also the first time that a near-complete fossil of an Ichthyosaur has been found. The fossil was found inside rocks from the Mesozoic Era, which dates between 252 and 66 million years ago.
Ichthyosaur (Greek for ‘fish lizard’) was a large marine reptile that lived alongside dinosaurs. This slender fish-eater had huge eyes, narrow jaws and cone-shaped teeth. The fossil records of an Ichthyosaur have been found in North America and Europe previously. In the Southern Hemisphere though, luck was limited to the area of South America and Australia. But this research finding, a result of the joint efforts from the University of Delhi and University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (Germany), has proved that the Ichthyosaurs were present in a wider area. The research was led by Professor Guntupalli Prasad, who said that the specimen was 5.5 metres long and almost complete, except for the missing parts of the skull and tail bones. The tooth wear patterns suggest that it hunted hard, abrasive animals. Ouch! Well, we don’t know who to feel worse for – the poor reptiles teeth or the animals which were caught in between them!
(Image Courtesy: Science Daily)
After having survived in this form for millions of years and then 1500 hours of digging, palaeontologists dug up the marine reptile which resembles modern dolphins and whales. This rare finding redefines the way these creatures travelled throughout ancient oceans. It is a fact that majority of Jurassic era skeletal fossils were found farther north. This discovery helped understand how Ichthyosaurs were globally widespread during the time of dinosaurs. To sum it all up? This finding in India is a scientific marvel both for its level of preservation and surprising final resting place.
Native to oceans with warm and humid climates, the Ichthyosaurs were predominantly found in seas alongside sharks and other marine reptiles around the time Pangaea, earth’s single supercontinent, was breaking apart.
This Ichthyosaur find suggests that a massive seaway once crossed the ancient continent of Gondwanaland (the southern part of Pangaea), cutting through the land that is now split across western India, and South America. About 170 million years ago, the Gondwanaland split during the Jurassic era. This split led to the formation of the continents we see now. This discovery could help establish the cycle of evolution of the animals that lived in the Jurassic era after the split.
(Image Courtesy: Scroll.in)
Technically, the remains of an Ichthyosaur have been found in India before. These remains were found in the Kaveri basin, but only teeth or bone fragments were found, which were not substantial for research. Samples have been discovered in countries of the Northern Hemisphere earlier to this discovery.
Since the Indian discovery of the Ichthyosaur, researchers want to carry out extensive search and excavation to study the marine-reptiles that would have existed in this geographical area. This has opened new possibilities and theories about the Jurassic era in the Indian subcontinent.