Updates from : DH News Service..
Scientists have unearthed the first near complete fossil of a Jurassic era icthyosaur — a large marine reptile that cohabited the Earth along with dinosaurs — in the Kachchh area of Gujarat
Ichthyosaurs, literally meaning ‘fish lizards’ in Greek, were large marine reptiles which lived alongside dinosaurs almost 250-90 million years ago.
After nearly two years of excavation at the nondescript Lodai village, 30 km north east of Bhuj, Indian fossil hunters along with their German colleagues came up with 5.5 mt long near complete fossilized skeleton of the creature.
Although extensive marine Jurassic deposits were spotted earlier both in the Himalayan and peninsular Indian (Kachchh, Jaisalmer) regions, until now no Jurassic era ichthyosaur remains have been documented from India.
In the past ichthyosaur fossils were unearthed in England, Germany, France, Russia, Norway, North and South America and Australia, suggesting the spread of these fish lizards. But the fossil records in India are rather poor.
“This is the first almost complete Jurassic era (100-150 million years ago) ichthyosaur fossil from India. The past reporting of icthyosaurs from India (in 1879 and 2011) were limited to few isolated teeth and fragmented vertebra,” lead scientists Guntupalli Prasad from the University of Delhi told DH.
The relics were found among fossils of ancient marine mollusc animals known as ammonites and squid-like belemnites. Its tooth wear patterns suggest it predated hard, abrasive animals.
It represented an adult animal that was comparatively large in size with respect to other Late Jurassic ichthyosaurs. The animal landed on the sea floor vertically on its snout, while the rest of the body later fell on its side.
The discovery has been reported in the October 25 issue of the journal Public Library of Sciences One.
The scientists have not yet been able to pinpoint the ichthyosaur’s species, because that would require more detailed study of the rocks after separating them from iron oxide rocks – a process that would take time.
A full identification could bring out new information on how these reptiles were dispersed between India and South America.
“This is a remarkable discovery not only because it is the first Jurassic ichthyosaur record from India, but also it throws light on the evolution and diversity of ichthyosaurs in the Indo-Madagascan region of the former Gondwanaland and India’s biological connectivity with other continents in the Jurassic,” Prasad notes.
How the ichthyosaurs went extinct remains a mystery with several theories abound. A popular theory is evolution of another group of marine reptiles, who nudged them out of competition. “Focused research in remote areas of Kachchh may lead to more exciting finds in the future,” the scientists reported.