A giant lizard that lived 40 million years ago at a time when Earth was a hothouse has been named in honour of rock singer Jim Morrison, palaeontologists said on Wednesday.
Around 1.80m (six feet) from snout to tail and tipping the scales at up to 27 kilos (60 pounds), the plant-eating reptile is one of the biggest-known lizards ever to have lived on land.
It competed with mammals for food in the humid tropical forests of Southeast Asia.
A fossil of the beast, found in sediment in Sagaing district in Myanmar, has been dated to the late-middle Eocene period, when Earth was so hot there was no ice at its poles.
“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,” said Jason Head of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln who led the analysis.
The palaeontologists have named the long-extinct species Barbaturex morrisoni.
“Barbaturex” means “bearded king,” after the team found ridges on the underside of the jaw that give lizards a beard-like appearance. “Morrisoni” is in tribute to Doors frontman Morrison, famed for his fascination with reptiles and shamanism.
“I was listening to The Doors quite a bit during research,” said Head.
“Some of their musical imagery includes reptiles and ancient places, and Jim Morrison was of course the Lizard King, so it kind of came together.”
The study appears in the British scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.