The head of the Natural History Museum at Ulyanovsk State University said naming fossils after famous people was not unusual, and noted a team of U.S. paleontologists named an ancient toothy lizard after President Barack Obama.
"The name Leninia stellans was agreed collegially," Gleb Uspensky told the RIA Novosti news agency. "Many new discoveries are named after famous people."
The ichthyosaur named after the leader of the Russian Revolution was dug up several years ago near a village in Ulyanovsk.
The name Leninia stellans indicates it is a unique species of ichthyosaurs, a marine lizard that populated the sea in the Mesozoic era between 251 million and 65 million years ago.
"The skull was over a meter (3.3 feet) long," Uspensky said. "Externally the ichthyosaur resembled a modern-day dolphin, and fed on fish and mollusks."