Name: Ichthyosaurus anningae
Meaning: Ichthyosaurus means “fish lizard” and is a classic genus of marine reptile, while anningae honours the pioneering palaeontologist Mary Anning, who was among the first to excavate and examine these creatures.
Age: Between 189 and 183 million years old.
Where in the world?: The Charmouth Mudstone Formation of England.
What sort of critter?: Not a dinosaur, but a member of a fish-like group of marine reptiles called ichthyosaurs.
Size: Over five feet long.
How much of the creature’s body is known?: The holotype is the front half of an articulated skeleton, but many other specimens have now been recognized.
Claim to fame: Sometimes new species are hiding in plain sight. In the 1970s and 80s an ichthyosaur was given to the United Kingdom’s Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery, and, for reasons unknown, the partial skeleton was confused for a plaster copy. In 2008, however, palaeontologist Dean Lomax had another look and determined that it was a real fossil and not a cast. Working with Judy Massare, Lomax was able to determine that the ichthyosaur belonged to a previously-unrecognized species and named it after Mary Anning, the palaeontologist who found the skeleton that led other researchers to later coin the name Ichthyosaurus.
Lomax, D., Massare, J. 2015. A new species of Ichthyosaurus from the Lower Jurassic of West Dorset, England, U.K. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. doi: 10.1080/02724634.2014.903260