Animal fossils give us some outstanding facts about the prehistoric era and the origin of species as well as human evolution. And recently, a group of researchers from KSKV Kutch University has found out a near completely fossilized skeleton of Jurassic era ichthyosaur-a type of marine reptile or ‘fish lizard’ in Greek.

Actually, the researchers, comprised of Indo-German geologists, discovered the 5.5-metre-long fossilized skeleton near the Kaas hills of Bhuj town in Kutch district back in January 2016. And after that, they did series of high-class experiments and recently concluded that the fossil was an ichthyosaur that lived along with the dinosaur in the Jurassic era. It was a first of its kind fossil found in India.

The near-complete skeleton is thought to belong to the Ophthalmosauridae family, which likely lived between 165 million years and 90 million years ago. MG Thakur, one of the authors of the study, said that the fossil was studied for over a year and it turned out to be of ichthyosaur, a kind of marine reptile which could have resembled the present-day dolphins.

The preserved axial skeleton measures 3.6 m in length. If the partially preserved snout (36 cm), the missing posterior skull region and post-flexural tail are taken into account, the ichthyosaur from Kachchh may have had an estimated length of 5.0–5.5 m. In this respect, it may represent an adult animal that was comparatively large in size with respect to other Late Jurassic ichthyosaurs.

The study stated that the present ichthyosaur find represents the first nearly complete articulated skeleton of an ichthyosaur from India and the first record from the Jurassic of India. It further expands the knowledge on morphological diversity and geographic distribution of Late Jurassic ophthalmosaurids, their dietary habits, and palaeobiogeography.

It also added that the presence of ophthalmosaurids ichthyosaurs in the Upper Jurassic of India, Madagascar, and South America implies that a marine seaway possibly connected the western Tethys with South America via the Indian Ocean in the Late Jurassic facilitating faunal exchanges between Europe and Gondwanan continents.

Study authors concluded, “At present, the specimen cannot be positively identified with known Jurassic ichthyosaur taxa from other parts of the world because of its encrustation in the ferruginous rock matrix, which conceals much of the morphological information.” They further added, “the currently available limited number of characters is inadequate to establish generic or species level relationships within the family. In general, the morphology of humerus and forefin indicate close similarities with OphthalmosaurusArthropterygius and Aegirosaurus.”

Gujarat has been the home to one of the world’s largest known deposits of dinosaur remains or fossils, and that is why it is depicted as the Jurassic Park of India. The latest study has encouraged scientists to make a focused research in the remote areas of the district and get more information about it. The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE on 25th of October.

“This is a remarkable discovery not only because it is the first Jurassic Ichthyosaur record from India, but it also 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,” said Guntupalli Prasad, a vertebrate paleontologist at University of Delhi and also lead researcher of a paper published in journal PLOS ONE.

Previously, a team of Indo-German palaeontologists has recovered 135 million-year-old dinosaur fossil from Kutch region of Gujarat. The remains of dinosaur were oldest recovered in this century. In the first stages of examination, it was found that the dinosaur was herbivorous and survived eating trees, shrubs, and herbs. Researchers had found bones from hip or limb area and they are pretty sure the fossils are of dinosaurs. However, they couldn’t utter a word on the species without confirming the age of the recovered bones.

Also, scientists had discovered a 52 million-year-old amber-encased fossil of a beetle named ‘Protoclaviger trichodens’. The fossil was discovered from Tadkeshwar lignite mine in Gujarat by a team of scientists from Lucknow based Birbal Sahni Institute of Paleobotany and American Museum of Natural History in New York.

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