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This is the end...

  • 05 June 2013
  • Written by 
  • Published in Biology

Just announced, the largest plant-eating lizard ever to have lived has been named after the original Lizard King, Jim Morrison.

Nearly 2m long and weighing a little under 30kg, this is not your ordinary garden lizard, in fact scientists have determined that Barbaturex morrisoni is the largest vegetarian lizard ever to have stalked the Earth.

The Lizard King, one might suggest.

Its size was considered by the scientists, who discovered and described the lizard, to be a result of the elevated temperatures that existed during the early parts of the Eocene period which extended from 56 to 33.9M years ago. Oddly unlike similar sized carnivorous lizards (think Komodo Dragon), this beast competed in the food-chain with mammalian peers; it didn't eat them.

Jason Head of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln asserts that this research will show how climate helped the reptile evolve.

"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," he added.

"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, was reported as saying.

"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."

The study has been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, but at the time of writing, the paper is not available for general access.

There is also no truth to the suggestion that the lizard's bones were unearthed at a well-known location in inner Paris.

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