Jim Morrison Lizard: Extinct Prehistoric Species Named After Doors Rocker

Image: Jim Morrison Lizard: Extinct Prehistoric Species Named After Doors Rocker

Thursday, 06 Jun 2013 11:27 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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More than 40 years after The Doors' Jim Morrison sang "I am the lizard king. I can do anything," a scientist named a newly discovered extinct lizard after the legendary rocker.

Paleontologist Jason J. Head was inspired by The Doors' song "Celebration of the Lizard" when he named the new species, Barbaturex morrisoni.

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"This is a king lizard, and he was the lizard king, so it just fit," Head, of the University of Nebraska, told Live Science.

The lizard species was named "barbaturex," which means "bearded king," for the ridges on its lower jaw. according to a paper published online in the "Proceedings of the Royal Society B."

Barbaturex morrisoni lived about 36 million to 40 million years ago in the forests of what is now Myanmar. Ranking among the largest land lizards ever discovered, the lizard was the size of a German shepherd, outweighing many mammals it shared the area with.

Despite its size, the Barbaturex morrisoni was a gentle giant, with teeth designed for shearing vegetation, not slicing flesh.

The species' fossils were first collected during expeditions in the 1970s and sat in a museum collection for more than 30 years without being examined until Head and his colleagues decided to study them.

Today, most lizards are much smaller than other mammals in their environment, with a few exceptions, like the Komodo dragon, which lives in places where there are few mammals nearby. Komodo dragons are found on isolated Indonesian islands.

"This was a really huge plant-eating lizard, much bigger than anything alive today," Head told LiveScience.

Lizards live in warm climates, and one of the reasons the species grew so large then was because global average temperatures were 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than they are today.

Morrison met his fellow Doors bandmates while attending UCLA. The popular band was known for their dark, rebellious lyrics. Morrison's excessive drinking and drug use caused him to die of heart failure in 1971.

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Related stories:

Ray Manzarek Dies: The Doors Keyboardist Was 74

Doors' Morrison Pardoned in Indecent Exposure Case

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