India Has Its First Ichthyosaur

What has Dorset and New Delhi got in common?  What’s the connection between Charmouth and Gujarat State?  It seems that marine reptiles are the link, with the discovery of India’s first Ichthyosaur fossil.  Granted, the Indian Ichthyosaur is younger than the Ichthyosaur material related with Lyme Regis and Charmouth but just as palaeontologists from the Dorset Museum have excavated Ichthyosaur fossils, so have their counterparts from Delhi University.  Intriguingly, these may be the first Ichthyosaur fossils to have been found in Gujarat State, but they won’t be the last, there are very probably lots more Ichthyosaur (and Plesiosaur) fossils awaiting discovery in India’s most westerly State.

A Field Photograph Showing the Fossil Material and Accompanying Line Drawing

Indian Ichthyosaur fossil with line drawing.

A photograph showing the Ichthyosaur fossil as it is exposed, with line drawing (below).

Picture Credit:  Dr Guntupalli V.R. Prasad (University of Delhi)

Member of the Ophthalmosauridae

Writing in journal PLOS One, the researchers conclude that the partial 3.6-metre-long fossil represents the remains of an Ichthyosaur that measured between 5 and 5.5 metres in length.  The specimen was discovered in the greenish-yellow shales of the Katrol Formation exposed at a site just south of the village of Lodai in the Kachchh district of Gujarat.  The presence of ammonites and belemnites (important zonal fossils), suggest that the Ichthyosaur lived some 152 million years ago in the Kimmeridgian (there’s that Dorset connection again), faunal zone of the Late Jurassic.  The broken tips of the teeth, could have resulted from taphonomy but they might suggest that this marine reptile had a duraphagous diet, crunching the shells of ammonites.  This new Ichthyosaur species has yet to be formally named but it has been assigned to the Ophthalmosauridae, a family of Ichthyosaurs that were widespread in the Late Jurassic.

Wear on the Teeth and Broken Teeth Suggest a Diet of Hard-shelled Creatures Such as Ammonites

Views of two fossil teeth from the Indian Ichthyosaur.

Views of two teeth from the Indian Ichthyosaur (scale bar = 1 cm).

Picture Credit: PLOS One

Commenting on the discovery, lead author, Dr Guntupalli V. R. Prasad (University of Delhi) stated:

“This is a remarkable discovery not only because it is the first Jurassic Ichthyosaur record from India, but also it 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.”

The research team conclude that the widespread occurrence of ophthalmosaurids in the Upper Jurassic deposits of western Tethys, Madagascar, South America and India indicate possible faunal exchanges between the western Tethys and Gondwanan continents through a southern seaway.

A Photograph and Line Drawing of the Left Forefin

Indian Ichthyosaur (left forefin).

The left forefin and accompanying line drawing of the Indian Ichthyosaur.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

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