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'Ghost' reptile lived late

Nature volume 497, page 413 (23 May 2013) | Download Citation

The identification of a fossilized reptile indicates that extinct 'fish lizards' called ichthyosaurs were more diverse late in their history than is often thought.

Previously, it was thought that only a subset of ichthyosaurs adapted for fast swimming in the open ocean had survived into the Cretaceous period, from 145 million to 66 million years ago. Valentin Fischer at the University of Liège in Belgium and his colleagues describe a new species with archaic features, Malawania anachronus, from a 1.5-metre-long fossil.

The recognition of this 'ghost lineage' reveals that two distantly related groups of ichthyosaurs lived in the Cretaceous. This challenges assumptions that low numbers and diversity in ichthyosaurs during this period contributed to their extinction.

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