An atypical study led by a group of researchers from KSKV Kutch University has discovered a near-completely fossilised skeleton of Jurassic-era ichthyosaur, a type of marine reptile or 'fish lizard' in Greek. The intriguing animal that looks like a mashup of a dolphin and lizard, lived alongside dinosaurs and was found from Kutch district of Gujarat.
Earlier, a group of Indo-German geologists had found a 5.5-metre-long skeleton near the Kaas hills of Bhuj town back in January 2016 and it was believed to be a fossil of dinosaur. The fossil has further gone through a series of high class experiments and the study finally showed that the fossil was of ichthyosaur from the Jurassic era and was the first to be found in India.
"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 our knowledge on morphological diversity and geographic distribution of Late Jurassic ophthalmosaurids, their dietary habits and palaeobiogeography," the study stated.
"The presence of ophthalmosauridae 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," the study added further.
The 5.5-metre-long skeleton seems to be a member of Ophthalmosauridae family which lived between 165 million years and 90 million years ago, the study showed, published in the October 25 edition of PLOS ONE journal.
Talking about their latest findings professor Thakkar of KSKV Kutch University said, "This is a big find for us. It was discovered during our project in Kaas hills near Bhuj city in January last year. It appeared as a dinosaur fossil to us but a deeper analysis was needed with help of a palaeontologist. So, we called professor G V R Prasad from Delhi University to study the fossil."
The study failed to identify the specimen of the same due to hard coating on it though the authors are still in search of new more informations in remote areas of Kuch district of Gujarat.
Apart from Thakkar, Guntupalli V R Prasad, HOD of geology at Delhi University, geologists Dhirendra K Pandey; Matthias Alberti and Franz T Fursich of University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU) in Germany; and Gaurav Chauhan are also an important part of the research.