New Species of Ancient Giant Asian Lizard Named After Doors Singer Jim Morrison

Posted on June 5, 2013

Barbaturex morrisoni

Scientists have announced the discovery of an ancient giant lizard that was one of the biggest known lizards ever to have lived on land. The lizard was a plant-eater, like modern-day iguanas. It lived in the jungles of Southeast Asia about 40 million years. The lizard weighed 60 pounds and was six feet long.

The scientists have named the lizard Barbaturex morrisoni. Barbatus is Latin for "bearded" and rex means "king." The mirrisoni portion of the name was named after The Doors lead singer Jim Morrison.

A team of U.S. paleontologists, led by Jason Head of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, revealed the new lizard in a paper published in the journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Head said in a release, "We think the warm climate during that period of time allowed the evolution of a large body size and the ability of plant-eating lizards to successfully compete in mammal faunas. You can't fully understand the evolution of ecosystems in the modern world without looking at the ones that preceded them. We would've never known this by looking at lizards today. By going back in time using the fossil record, we can find unique information on the origin of modern ecosystems."

Jaw Fossil of Barbaturex morrisoni

University of Iowa paleoanthropologist Russell Ciochon and University of California, Berkeley, Professor Donald E. Savage, who died in 1999, found the fossils 35 years ago in Burma. They then remained in storage in California for decades. Ciochon says, "The fossils were found on Dec. 25, 1978, on my second expedition to Burma (Myanmar) at the beginning of my career."

Artist's Rendition: Angie Fox, Nebraska State Museum of Natural History, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Photo by Craig Chandler / University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University Communications