The Lizard King: Now an Actual Giant Lizard. Thanks, Science!

Categories: Commentary

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When the fossils of a giant plant-eating reptile were found in South East Asia, paleontologists wanted to give the world's largest lizard ever discovered a proper name. They just couldn't decide between Jim Morrison, a rocker with an affinity for lizards, or Hunter S. Thompson, a rock & roll journalist afflicted with hallucinations of giant lizards.

While a man jacked up on Mescaline, Methodone, Wild Turkey and weed makes a mad combination full of all kinds of nightmarish images, including giant lizards wearing clothes, it doesn't come close to the poetic mysticism of Jim Morrison, a man known for wandering the desert in search of the four doors to mystical experience.

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"I was listening to The Doors quite a bit during the research," said Jason Head, lead researcher from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, in a recent interview with BBC. "Some of their musical imagery includes reptiles and ancient places, and Jim Morrison was, of course, 'The Lizard King.'"

The official name for the reptile king is Barbaturex morrisoni. It's a six foot lizard that lived sometime between 36 and 40 million years ago.

The mystical significance of lizards has haunted humanity for generations. In the Christian Bible, Satan appeared to the mother of man as a serpent with many legs before God cursed him to crawl on his belly for the rest of eternity. In ancient Greek, lizards represented divine wisdom, and Hindus believe that depending on which way a lizard falls determines if a person will gain something - a visiting guest or increase in wealth - or the destruction of your enemies.

Head and his co-researchers published a paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, suggesting that The Lizard King could have needed a warmer climate than we have today to dominate its kin in size and mass. Before the discovery, Head and company didn't know if the size of plant-eating lizards were a function of climate or competition from mammals.

Their findings suggest climate.... which brings to mind a worrisome thought: with the rapid increase of global warming, will the giant lizards of Hunter S. Thompson's drug-induce nightmares soon become a reality without the help of a pharmaceutical cocktail?

Only time will tell.

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