A prehistoric fossil has been discovered in China depicting an ichthyosaur in the moment of birth! The fossil records a mother with three infants, one inside the womb, one emerging from the mother’s pelvis, and one outside (possibly stillborn), suggesting the mother died during a difficult labour. This is the first instance of a live birth EVER!
The ichthyosaur dates back to the Mesozoic period, approximately 248 million years ago. These marine reptile were huge and had an eel-like body structure, and it’s believed that they evolved on land to later become sea animals.
This is one of the most remarkable finds from this era, not only because it shows the mother giving birth, but also because it reveals the baby came out head first – a trait most commonly associated with land animals. This had led scientists to believe that the “sea monster” actually came onto land to give birth.
Scientists suggest this is because the genus Chaohusaurus – the genus to which the species of ichthyosaur belong – evolved from land to the sea, and early ancestors of this genus still reverted to giving birth on land as part of their ancestral habits.
The specimen provides the oldest fossilized embryos from this period by 10 million years in comparison to other fossil records of this era.
Source: National Geographic