Lenin Honoured by Marine Reptile

A team of Russian scientists have honoured the leader of the Bolshevik 1917 revolution which led to the establishment of the Soviet Union by naming a new genus of marine reptile after Lenin.  Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, who died in 1924, now has a genus of Ichthyosaur named in his honour.  This prehistoric creature, a marine reptile that superficially resembled a modern-day, extant dolphin lived approximately 125 million years ago (Barremian faunal stage of the Cretaceous).  The scientific name for this new marine reptile is Leninia stellans.  The name means “starry or brilliant Lenin”.

Having an organism new to science named after you is an honour, although Lenin is not the first political leader to have his name immortalised in the fossil record.  For example,  a team of researchers studied a number of Late Cretaceous lizard and snake fossils (Squamata), in the southern part of Americas and in the course of their research they named a new genus of toothy lizard after the current president of the United States.  The prehistoric lizard was named Obamadon gracilis.  The name translates to mean “Obama’s graceful tooth”.

Speaking about the new marine reptile fossil, Gleb Uspensky, the Head of the Natural History Museum at Ulyanovsk State University, where the specimen is currently being stored commented:

“The name Leninia stellans was agreed collegially.  There is nothing strange about the name, many new discoveries are named after famous people.”

Ichthyosaurs (Typical Ichthyosaurs Illustrated)

Dolphin-like prehistoric animals.

Dolphin-like prehistoric animals.

Ichthyosaurs were marine reptiles and not members of the Dinosauria Order.  Ichthyosaurs are a separate Order, the majority of Ichthyosaurs were nektonic, fast-swimming predators.  The first Ichthyosaurs evolved in the Early Triassic and persisted into the Cretaceous geological period, before finally becoming extinct approximately eighty million years ago.

Palaeontologists excavated elements of the skull a few years ago, on the outskirts of the city of Ulyanovsk on the banks of the Volga river.  The actual fossil material was discovered near the small village of Kriushi in the Sengileevsk region of this part of the former Soviet Union.  The skull material provided the scientists with an estimate of the size of the entire head and jaws of the animal, it measures over one metre in length and indicates an entire body length in excess of four metres.  It is likely that this marine reptile fed on fish and cephalopods such as squid, octopi and ammonites.  Recently, other elements of the Ichthyosaur fossil have been excavated from this area.  Palaeontologists have assigned this new genus to a sub-family of Ichthyosaurs known as the Ophthalmosaurinae.  Phylogenetically related to the Jurassic Opthalmosaurus-type Ichthyosaurs, the scientists hope to be able to learn more about the evolution and radiation of the Ichthyosaurs during the Early Cretaceous geological period.

A Model of an Ichthyosaur with an Ammonite (Cephalopod) that it Has Caught

An Icththyosaurus with an Ammonite that it has caught.

An Icththyosaurus with an Ammonite that it has caught.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

It is appropriate that this type of marine reptile should be named after the Founder of the Soviet Union (Lenin), for Lenin was born in this part of the Russian Empire, (as was), in fact the city of Ulyanovsk was renamed in 1924 (previously known as Simbirsk), to honour the Communist leader.

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