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Fossil of Jurassic era’s ‘fish lizard’, a sea-dwelling reptile, found in Kutch

An almost fully preserved fossil of Jurassic age sea-dwelling reptile Ichthyosaur has been found in a village in Gujarat’s Kutch district.

science Updated: Oct 26, 2017 07:59 IST
Malavika Vyawahare
Malavika Vyawahare
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Jurassic era Fossil,Jurassic,Ichthyosaur
The fossil of the Ichthyosaur at the excavation site near lodai village in Kutch district of Gujarat. (Photo: Guntupalli VR Prasad)

Indian scientists announced on Wednesday they have discovered an almost fully preserved fossil of a Jurassic age sea-dwelling reptile known as the ‘fish lizard’ from a village in Gujarat’s Kutch district.

The discovery was reported in PLOS ONE, a scientific journal, by a group of researchers who found the fossil in early 2016.

It’s the second significant fossil discovery in India this year. Earlier, scientists had announced the discovery of the oldest plant fossil in India, a red algae from the Chitrakoot region in Madhya Pradesh, believed to be 1.6 billion years old.

A rendering of the ichthyosaur. (Photo: Guntupalli VR Prasad)

Fully preserved fossils are rare and the Gujarat find gives experts a chance to study the remains in detail.

“The discovery adds to the knowledge of ichthyosaur from the southern continents,” said Guntupalli Prasad, one of the authors of the study.

Ichthyosaur is a combination of two Greek words meaning fish and lizard, a name the reptile gets because of its fish-like appearance.

The Gujarat fossil is believed to be from the Jurassic period, which lasted from about 250 million to 200 million years ago. Ichthyosaur fossils from the Jurassic period have been found in the Americas, Australia and Europe but never in India.

Other Ichthyosaur fossils from the Crustacean period – which lasted 145 million to 66 million years ago -- found in India are usually in the form of teeth or fragments of vertebrae.

“When my colleagues found the first fragment of the fossil they thought it was a dinosaur,” said Prasad, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Delhi.

His co-authors were working in the Kutch basin, studying the age of the geological formations, when they made the first discovery.

“They went back and found an insitu rib of the animal,” Prasad said. “Since they were not specialists they requested me to join.”

Prasad said the team will be able to study the fossil better once it is extracted from the rock matrix it is currently encased in.

Prasad identified the family of the animal as Ophthalmosauridae, but the genus and the species is yet to be identified.

First Published: Oct 26, 2017 07:27 IST