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Icthyosaurs were giant reptiles who lived in the seas at the same time as the dinosaurs ruled the land. They gave live birth to their children. A fossil newly discovered in China, dating back almost a quarter of a billion years, shows the earliest known live birth of a reptile. The fossil literally captures the moment of birth, as there was an embryo still inside the mother, a newborn just outside her, and a third halfway between, in the process of exiting the pelvis. The headfirst posture of the second baby indicates to researchers that live birth may have evolved on land, not in the water in reptiles as previously thought. Icthyosaurs, although they lived in the same time period and could be mistakenfor them owing to their shared reptilian inheritage, were not dinosaurs. Although not a first per se, it still amazes me that, through fossilization, we can look back at a birth in progress that started 248 million years ago.

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