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India's first dinosaur fossil rediscovered

Mumbai, Jan 17 , 2013 (IANS) 12:51 IST
More than a century after it went missing, the fossil of what has been regarded as India's first recorded dinosaur has been rediscovered in Kolkata, according to a top scientific journal.

The recovery of Titanosaurus Indicus, or the Indian Tital reptile, was possible due to a collaborative programme between the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and the University of Michigan, according to the latest issue of Current Science (Vol. 104, No. 1, Jan. 10, 2013, Pg. No. 34), brought out by the Bangalore-based Indian Academy of Sciences.

The missing dinosaur, untraceable for nearly a century, was finally found at the GSI headquarters in Kolkata, says the magazine.

The fossil was originally discovered by W.H. Sleeman in the Jabalpur area of central India in 1828.

However, it was only half a century later - in 1877 - that its importance came to light as a new genus and species of sauropod dinosaur known as Taitanosaurus Indicus, first identified by Richard Lydekker.

At that time, the world had identified only 115 dinosaur species or less than 10 percent of the 1,401 species known by 2004.

Passing safely through many hands for over half a century, it suddenly went missing though a cast of the specimen was in London's Natural History Museum.

Later, in the early 1900s, many more discoveries of dinosaur fossils were made by scientists such as Charles Metley and Durgasankar Bhattacharji around the original site in Jabalpur excavated by Sleeman.

The magazine says there are many Indian dinosaur specimens that are missing, including both large and small specimens of sauropod and theropod dinosaurs.

Prime among the missing specimens include the head and skeletal parts of the stocky-limbed large Theropod Lametasaurus Indicus, Indosaurus Matleyi, Indosuchus Raptorius, parts of Jainosaurus Septentrionalis and the small Noasaurid Theropod Laevisuchus Indicus and many Theropod limb bones.

Scientists lament that the non-availability of these elements seriously hamper efforts to understand the evolutionary history of Indian dinosaurs and to decode their palaeobiogeographic connections to other southern landmasses.

However, it is not clear whether these missing specimens are lost or merely misplaced and whether it is better to retrieve the old bones or discover newer ones in the field.

The joint efforts by GSI and the University of Michigan have already started bearing fruit and several important specimens have been recovered from various places in existing storage sites, and new ones are being discovered from the field, the magazine says.

Scientists are hopeful that many more missing specimens may be recovered in the future which would help in the study of the evolutionary history of India and its past and present connections to other landmasses.

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