WASHINGTON – Jim Morrison famously wrote in the poem “Celebration of the Lizard” that he was “the Lizard King,” a name that stuck. So when a paleontologist who happens to be a Doors fan came across a fossil of a giant lizard, one of the largest ever to tread the planet, he named it Barbaturex morrisoni, after the band’s lead singer.
“I’ve been a Doors fan since college,” said Jason Head, an assistant professor in the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. A description of the fossils, which came from Myanmar and date to 40 million years ago, was published in the biological science journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The name was inspired by spiky stuff hanging from the lizard’s jawbone.
Weighing in at at nearly 30 kg and measuring over 180 cm long, the “lizard king” would dwarf today’s plant-eating iguanas. But B. morrisoni would probably be smaller than its distant relative, the island-dwelling Komodo dragon, which eats meat and can grow to 3 meters and weigh up to 90 kg.
The researchers theorize that at a time when no ice existed at the Earth’s poles and the diversity of plant life was tremendous, these lizards ate their fill and evolved into giants in spite of the presence of animals that preyed on plant eaters.