In a small village of Lodai in India, a fully intact marine dinosaur fossil that roamed the seas 150 million years ago has been recently found. The fossil belonged to an ichthyosaur or “fish reptiles” that wandered the oceans when the Earth was so different to now. This has been the first time an ichthyosaur that belonged from the Jurassic period is found, possibly showing how these sea monsters spread across the ancient world.
“Ichthyosaur fossils are well known from the northern continents but are very rare down south,” says Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh who wasn’t involved with the study. Most ichthyosaur fossils are only found in Europe and North America. “So this new skeleton has the potential to reveal many secrets about ichthyosaur evolution and biogeography.”
According to Guntupalli V.R. Prasad, a palaeontologist from the University of India and author of the study, most discoveries about these sea monsters are about 100 million years old and are mostly vertebrae or teeth, so the discovery of the fully intact skeleton of the ichthyosaur is a surprise. “I did not do much research on the vertebrate fossils of this region earlier, as it was considered to yield very few vertebrate fossils,” Prasad says.
Back when the sea monster was still alive, the region of India where the fossil was discovered was submerged by a tropical sea. It ate a number of sea creatures like ammonites, armored fish and nautilus-like molluscs. Also, the fossil that was found was related of a family of ichthyosaurs that were found further up north, suggesting that ichthyosaurs travelled across the ancient seas. If that is true, it could help palaeontologists understand better how these marine animals spread through Jurassic seas.
“This find helps to show how globally widespread ichthyosaurs were during the time of dinosaurs,” says Brusatte. “They seem to have lived everywhere in the oceans, all over the world, at the same time dinosaurs were thundering across the land.”
Now if only the next Jurassic Park movie featured ichthyosaurs, how cool would that be?
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