Remains of an Ichthyosaur Giving Birth to Three Babies Discovered When Chinese Researchers Cracked Open a Rock in 2012

Yana Bostongirl

According to the Washington Post, in 2011 Chinese researchers came upon a large rock with a fish fossil on it. Even though the rock which was found in South Majiashan, China, was brought to a lab for further testing, it was only a year later that researchers decided to crack open the rock and thus make a stunning discovery of the remains of a mother ichthyosaur giving birth to three babies.

According to the New Scientist, it was obvious from the remains that the birth had gone horribly wrong: "Birth is a dangerous process, and for this very ancient ichthyosaur mother it went terribly wrong. She was carrying at least three offspring. One was found under the mother’s body. The third was still inside her, waiting to be born. And the second was halfway out of the birth canal, making this fossil unique."

Ichthyosaurs are marine reptiles that lived during the Mesozoic era. Ichthyosaur is described as any member of an extinct group of aquatic reptiles, most of which were very similar to porpoises in appearance and habits. These distant relatives of lizards and snakes (lepidosaurs) were the most highly specialized aquatic reptiles, but ichthyosaurs were not dinosaurs.

Per reports, the ichthyosaur remains found in the rock are estimated to be around 250 million years old. It gave researchers fresh insight into how these former land-based creatures had moved on from egg laying much earlier than was previously thought: "To their amazement, they discovered inside the remains of a mother ichthyosaur — a fishlike creature that swam in the oceans during the Mesozoic Era 252 million to 66 million years ago — giving birth to three babies. One was already out of the womb, another was halfway out, and the third was waiting for its chance. This fossil find altered the view of when dinosaurs began having live births, pushing back the historical record by nearly 250 million years."

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