Meet the original Lizard King


Barbaturex morrisoni

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…

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…

…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.

“Large lizards on the Earth today, such Indonesia’s Komodo Dragon, and in the past, such as the late Cretaceous Chinese Chianghsia nankangensis and the Pleistocene Australian Varanus priscus, are all carnivores. These large carnivorous lizards were eating the mammals they co-existed with, not competing with the mammals.

“The large size of the Lizard King certainly protected it from many predators. But there is no doubt that it was hunted by mammalian carnivores of the day…”

Lead researcher, Jason Head from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln believes his research will show how climate helped the reptile evolve…

I was listening to The Doors quite a bit during the research,” Head said. “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.”

Now – if we could only clone Jim Morrison…

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