Ancient Miracle: 250-Million-Year-Old Fossil Unveils Earliest Example of a Marine Reptile Giving Birth, Rewriting Evolutionary History

A giant prehistoric beast that died while giving birth almost 250 million years ago has been unearthed by scientists.

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The fossil of the ichthyosaur – meaning ‘fish-lizard’ – is believed to be the earliest example of an ancient marine reptile that perished in the act.

Its partial skeleton was dug up in Anhui, China with one new-born inside the mother, another exiting the pelvis with half the body still inside and the third outside.

The fossil of the ichthyosaur – meaning ‘fish-lizard’ – is believed to be the earliest example of an ancient marine reptile that perished in the act. Its partial skeleton was dug up in Anhui, China with one new-born inside the mother, another exiting the pelvis with half the body still inside and the third outside

The headfirst posture of the second embryo indicates live births in Ichthyosaurs took place on land, instead of in the water as some studies have previously suggested.

Ichtyosaurs were predatory reptiles that swam the world’s oceans at the time of the dinosaurs. They moved to the water after starting out as land reptiles.

This one is known as a ‘chaohusaurus’ which did not have the dolphin-like form of later ichthyosaurs but a more lizard-like appearance.

The embryo in body is shown in orange, child partially out of the pelvis is in yellow and the newborn in red

ICHTYOSAUR: THE ‘FISH LIZARD’

Largest known Ichthyosaurus fossil identified – and it's pregnant

Ichtyosaurs were predatory reptiles that swam the world’s oceans at the time of the dinosaurs. They moved to the water after starting out as land reptiles.

This particular example was known as a ‘chaohusaurus’ which did not have the dolphin-like form of later ichthyosaurs but a more lizard-like appearance.

It did have flippers rather than webbed feet but the neck was unusually long. There was no back fin and the tail fin was wide and short.

One of the smallest ichthyosaurs it was less than six feet long and weighed about 10 kg.

An ichthyosaur fossilized while having a birth (The baby is coming outside under the tail) : r/interestingasfuck

It did have flippers rather than webbed feet but the neck was unusually long. There was no back fin and the tail fin was wide and short.

One of the smallest ichthyosaurs it was less than six feet long and weighed about 10 kg.

Dr Ryosuke Motani, of California University in Davis, said: ‘The study reports the oldest vertebrate fossil to capture the “moment” of live-birth with a baby emerging from the pelvis of its mother.

‘The 248-million-year old fossil of an ichthyosaur suggests that live-bearing evolved on land and not in the sea.’

Rediscover the Himalayasaurus on Qinghai-Xizang Plateau - CGTN

The researchers, whose study is published in PLOS ONE, said the new specimen contains embryos of a marine reptile believed to be about 10 million years older than those indicated on previous records.

They also suggest live births in land reptiles could have appeared much earlier than previously thought.

A 380 million year-old fossil fish uncovered in Australia is the oldest-known example of a mother giving birth to live young after being preserved with an embryo still attached by its umbilical cord.

This image shows a reconstruction of adult and embryo of Chaohusaurus in comparison to a ichthyopterygian (B). The rectangle shows how the baby would have exited in A. The chaohusaurus in C shows one embryo in birth position and three in body cavity

The ancient ichthyosauras fossil was recovered in Anhui, China

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