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248-Million-Year Old Fossil Shows Mother Reptile In Act Of Giving Live Birth

Update Date: Feb 15, 2014 12:09 PM EST

An ancient fossil specimen recovered in China shows a mother reptile in the middle of the giving live birth. The 248 million-year-old fossil is of a marine reptile called Chaohusaurus - a member of a bigger group of reptiles called Ichthyosaurs.

Scientists said the specimen is indicating that live-birth in air-breathing marine animals was not an aquatic adaptation. 

Reportedly, the mother was giving birth to three offsprings. One of the embryo was still inside the mother reptile while another was coming out of the pelvis and the third was lying outside the mother reptile. 

The skeleton also hinted that the mother reptile was delivering her offspring live from her womb. 

"These cases may be exceptions but nevertheless establish that headfirst birth in water is possible even in air-breathers. Therefore, the caudad skull orientation of embryonic Chaohusaurus does not necessarily suggest birth on land, especially if this mother died in labor underwater as preservation evidence suggests," researchers wrote in the paper.

The oldest known fossil of a live birth also suggested that live-birth among air-breathers evolved on land and not in the seas, said researchers. 

According to researchers Ichthyosaurs looked identical to lizards and later on they acquired a dolphin-shaped body.

"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," said lead researcher Ryosuke Motani from University of California in the press release. 

The paper is published in the journal PLOS ONE

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