Cretaceous-era reptile Malawania anachronus discovered in Kurdistan.
by Christine Dell’Amore
A new species of dinosaur-era sea reptile is rewriting the books on the evolution of so-called sea monsters, a new study claims.
The newfound—and potentially controversial—Malawania anachronus was a10 ft (3 m)) long ichthyosaur, a group of dolphin-like creatures that could grow to 65 ft (20 m) in length. These fast-swimming predators peaked in diversity during the Jurassic period.
Oddly, though, new fossil analyses suggest that M. anachronus roamed the oceans of the early Cretaceous period—66 million years after its closely related cousins were thought to live.
That’s why Malawania anachronus—Kurdish and Greek for “out-of-time swimmer”—is “something that shouldn’t be there, but it is,” said study leader Valentin Fischer, a geologist and paleontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.
But Michael Caldwell, an ichthyosaur expert at the University of Alberta in Canada who was not involved in the study, cautioned against getting too excited about the find, citing the fact that the study is based on one incomplete specimen…
(read more: National Geo) (illustration by Valentin Fischer)