The newfoundâ€”and potentially controversialâ€”Malawania anachronus was a ten-foot (three-meter) long ichthyosaur, a group of dolphin-like creatures that could grow to 65 feet (20 meters) 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 periodâ€”66 million years after its closely related cousins were thought to live.
That’s why Malawania anachronusâ€”Kurdish and Greek for “out-of-time swimmer”â€”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.
“This ‘living fossil’ of its time demonstrates the existence of a lineage that we had never even imagined,” Fischer said in a statement.