Extinct lizard named after The Doors’ singer Jim Morrison
A newly described 6ft lizard that roamed South East Asia from 36-40 million years ago has been named after The Doors singer Jim Morrison.
The choice of name Barbaturex morrisoni is a play on the late frontman’s epithet “The Lizard King”.
Higher temperatures at the time are thought to have helped the lizard evolve to its unusual size.
The scientists were surprised to find that the reptile successfully competed for food against mammals.
The study is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
A team of palaeontologists analysed fossils of the giant reptile and discovered it is the largest plant-eating lizard to have ever existed.
It lived alongside other herbivorous and carnivorous mammals during the Eocene epoch. It was likely to have weighed about 27.2 kg (60 pounds).
Modern day lizards, like iguanas and agamids, are smaller than other herbivores and provide tasty meals for many larger predators.
But Barbaturex morrisoni was larger than most carnivorous mammals. And competition for resources did not appear to restrict its evolution into such a large lizard, the study found.
“Reptiles and mammals co-exist most places on the Earth today. What is interesting about the Lizard King is that it was a large vegetarian co-existing and competing with other herbivorous mammals,” co-author Prof Russell Ciochon, from the University of Iowa, told BBC News.