Vegetarian lizards today –like iguanas, for example — tend to be significantly smaller than their large mammalian counterparts, which include enormous herbivores like moose and elephants. According to new fossil evidence, though, that wasn’t always the case. Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have shown that 40 million years ago, herbivorous lizards up to 6-feet-long roamed the forests of Southeast Asia, and they’ve named the long-lost animal in honor of Doors frontman Jim Morrison.
The naming was inspired by Morrison’s alias/nickname “The Lizard King.” And if there were other creatures for the crown of “Biggest Lizard” back when Barbaturex morrisoni was strolling around the primeval forest, we certainly don’t want to run into any of them, because a six-foot lizard — even one who’s not looking to make a meal out of us, like today’s largest lizard, the Komodo dragon — is already more reptile than we want to deal with existing.
According to lead researcher Jason Head, he was listening to a lot of Morrison’s music while research into the fossil was ongoing, and it seemed a fitting inspiration for the name:
Some of their musical imagery includes reptiles and ancient places, and Jim Morrison was of course ‘The Lizard King,’ so it all kind of came together.
The team detailed their findings in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, and you can give the open-access paper a look here. A throwback to a much warmer era in Earth’s history, researchers hope the newly discovered fossil can help them understand how climate can affect the evolution of animals and ecosystems.
- “On a menu” is not where you want to discover a new lizard species, ideally
- These lizard-inspired robots are small — for now
- Fossils continue to teach us about how dinosars lived, and how they ate