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The six-foot reptile weighed more than 60 pounds 'Lizard King' named after rock star Jim Morrison

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 5th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

"I am the Lizard King - I can do anything!" Doors singer Jim Morrison declared at one point. The brooding, mysterious poet and singer lived fast, died young at the age of 27 in 1971. in his honor, a prehistoric lizard has been named after him - "Barbaturex morrisoni."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The cold-blooded beast was one of the biggest lizards to roam on land, Six feet long, the 68-pound reptile lived up to 40 million years ago.

Barbaturex morrisoni is in fact a soft play on words. "Barbaturex" means bearded king and "morrisoni" means Morrison. While ancient creatures do have "morrisoni" in their scientific names, Scientist Jason head named the specimen Barbaturex morrisoni with Jim Morrison in mind.

"You've got to figure out a name that fits," Head, a paleontologist with the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln told reporters.

Once scientists saw how big the lizard was, in addition to a prominent flap of skin on its neck, the idea to name it after the bearded singer came to mind.

"I was listening to The Doors quite a bit during the research," Head said in a statement. "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 lizard king roamed the tropical forests of Southeast Asia when it was alive, but while the fossils used to identify Barbaturex morrisoni were originally found in Burma, they were taken back to the U.S. and placed in a museum collection. The bones remained there for nearly half a century before being examined by Head and his colleagues in 2006.

Head noticed the lizard had several bone features present in much smaller, modern lizards. "I thought, 'That's neat.' Based on its teeth, it's a plant-eating lizard from a time period and a place from which we don't have a lot of information," Head recalled.

"But when I started studying its modern relatives, I realized just how big this lizard was. It struck me that we had something here that was quite large -- and unique."

Head speculates that since the giant lizard thrived in a warm tropical world where the planet did not have ice caps at its poles, recent trends in global warming may mean one day giant lizards may once again roam the Earth.

His prophecy contains a word of caution. "But we're changing the atmosphere so fast that the rate of climate change is probably faster than most biological systems can adapt to. So instead of seeing the growth and spread of giant reptiles, what you might see is extinction."

In short, more species may go the way of both Jim Morrison and the ancient Lizard King.

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