New species of ancient Asian lizard named for rocker Jim Morrison

June 5, 2013 at 5:43 PM
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IOWA CITY, Iowa, June 5 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers who discovered a new species of ancient Asian lizard say they've named it after the late 1960s rock star Jim Morrison, the "Lizard King."

University of Iowa paleoanthropologist Russell Ciochon and his colleagues say "Barbaturex morrisoni" was a plant-eater, like present-day iguanas, that lived in the jungles of Southeast Asia about 40 million years ago.

At some 60 pounds and 6 feet in length, the lizard was one of the largest of its kind -- making it a veritable "king" of land-dwelling lizards, they said.

In Latin "Barbatus" means "bearded" and "rex" means "king," referring to the presence of ventral ridges along the underside of the mandible as well as the giant size of the lizard, Ciochon said.

"We did take some liberty in naming the new species after rock legend Jim Morrison, who [was] known as the 'Lizard King.'" He said.

Study lead author Jason Head of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln admitted to listening to a lot of Doors music during the research.

"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," Head said.

Barbaturex morrisoni evolved about 40 million years ago when the climate was as much as 9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it is today, creating a warmer and moister environment would have encouraged the growth and evolution of subtropical vegetation, provided resources allowing for larger reptiles and mammals, the researchers said.

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