An exquisitely preserved fossil of an ichthyosaur — a dolphin-like reptile that lived during the dinosaur age — it’s the only Jurassic ichthyosaur ever found in India.
The researchers were surprised to find the marine reptile in the Kachchh area in the western Indian state of Gujarat, because with the exceptions of South America and Australia, ichthyosaurs are rarely found in the Southern Hemisphere. Rather, ichthyosaurs are more commonly found in North America and Europe.
Based on the preserved length of the axial skeleton and anterior part of the snout and taking into account the missing parts of the skull and postflexural region, it is suggested that the specimen may represent an adult possibly reaching a length of 5.0–5.5 m
The skeleton seems to be a member of Ophthalmosauridae family which lived between 165 million years and 90 million years ago, according to the study published in the October 25 edition of PLOS ONE journal.
But there’s still a lot of work to be done on the specimen, said Dean Lomax, a paleontologist and visiting scientist at the University of Manchester, in the United Kingdom.
Once the bones have been removed from the rock, only then can a positive identification be given
The ichthyosaur was buried alongside fossils of ammonites and squid-like belemnites — creatures that were likely main staples of its diet. An analysis of its robust teeth “indicates that the teeth were used to grasp a prey with a hard exterior, such as armored fish, crustaceans and thick-shelled ammonites”.
During the dinosaur age, ichthyosaurs flourished in prehistoric oceans, living in all kinds of watery environments near and far from shore. They ruled the waters and they disappeared about 90 million years ago, going extinct about 25 million years before the dinosaur-killing asteroid slammed into Earth.
The researchers are hopeful that continued exploration in the region will help them uncover even more fossils, and potentially spark further interest for archaeologists in India.