Back and 1971 Allan Lindoe helped dig up some ichthyosaur fossils. Somehow they ended up getting stashed under a ping-pong table in a science lab at the University of Alberta where they sat for some 25 odd years until Dr. Michael Caldwell decided to clean things up and rediscovered the fossils.
The paper describing the new species was published in the journal Palaeontology, A New Genus of Ichthyosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of Western Canada (abstract).
The new animal was named Maiaspondylus lindoei—”maia” meaning “good mother” because the fossil was found along with embryos, and “spondylus” meaning “vertebra” because the embryos were found near the spinal column. The species name, lindoei, is in honor of Allan Lindoe.
So what exactly is an ichthyosaur? The name makes them sound like a type of dinosaur, but researchers have guessed that they looked more like a dolphin or a fish. But they weren’t fish either. They were air-breathing marine reptiles. To learn more about ichthyosaurs check out Ryosuke Motani’s Ichthyosaur Page
The M. lindoei sample was collected in Canada’s Northwest Territories and it’s speculated that it was sitting their for some 100 million years before spending the last 25 under the ping pong table. Prior to this discovery all cretaceous ichthyosaurs were classified under a single genus, Platypterygius. Scientists felt that this speciman was distinct enough to warrant a new genus.