A giant Indian Ichthyosaur fossil has been discovered in the Kachchh region of Gujarat, India. Researchers believe that this is an incredible discovery. It will help them better understand the diversity and evolution of these sea monsters in the Indo-Madagascan region of the former Gondwanaland.

Ichthyosaurs were widespread

The discovery will also throw light on the subcontinent’s biological connectivity with other Jurassic continents. This is the first Ichthyosaur record from India. Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist from the University of Edinburgh, told the National Geographic that this discovery proves how globally widespread these giant “lizard fish” were during the time of dinosaurs.

When dinosaurs were ruling the land, these creatures were ruling the oceans all over the world. Lead researcher Guntupalli Prasad believes that Ichthyosaurs traversed a route linking South America, Madagascar, Europe, and modern day India. During the time the recently discovered Ichthyosaur lived, most of India was under a warm, tropical sea.

The most complete discovery in India until now

The Gondwanaland supercontinent was then slowly breaking up. Other Indian Ichthyosaur discoveries have mostly been teeth or scattered vertebra. Moreover, they are about 50 million years younger than the newly-discovered fossil. Ph.D. researcher Chloe Plet and Curtin University professor Kliti Grice, found traces of cholesterol, collagen and Red Blood Cells in such fossils.

These scientists also looked into the fossilized cell structure of an Early Jurassic Ichthyosaur vertebra, around 183 million years old, from Germany. Their research has been published in Nature Scientific Reports. The red blood cells, collagen, and cholesterol have been preserved as the fossil formed under carbonate concretion.

Small red blood cells helped them survive

Carbonate concretion is a process where a dead creature is trapped in an environment rich in organic matter. Moreover, there is very low oxygen. The research has also revealed how Ichthyosaurs, who were lung-breathing creatures, survived in an Earth’s atmosphere having much less oxygen than found today.

According to News.com.au, an analysis of a sample has revealed that the red blood cell structures in these Ichthyosaurs were almost five times smaller than in most modern organisms. These small cells helped the monsters with efficient oxygen diffusion and transport. The 150 million-year-old fishlike reptile fossil discovered in India is almost complete.

Only a part of the skull and some of the tail bones are missing. The left fore-fin is incredibly well-preserved. It took 1,500 man hours of excavation to unearth the giant fossil. It was embedded in very hard sedimentary rock. This Ichthyosaur is closely related to Northern Hemisphere varieties and may belong to the Ophthalmosauridae family.

Ichthyosaur fossils have mostly been discovered in Europe and North America, and some in Australia and South America. The details about this gigantic sea monster have been published in PLOS ONE. A complete interview of Dr. Prasad is available on PLOS Research News.