bearded king lizard
by Michael dEstries
Categories: Science.
Photo: Angie Fox, Nebraska State Museum of Natural History, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

One of the largest lizards ever to walk the earth has been named after the late “Doors” frontman Jim Morrison.

The Bearded King Lizard, or Barbarurex morrisioni (the name is a nod to Morrison’s alter-ego “The Lizard King.”) lived between 36 million to 40 million years ago, measured over six-feet long, and dined primarily on plants. According to researcher Jason Head, the lizard evolved to such a large size thanks to elevated global temperatures during a period known as the Paleocene greenhouse.

“This was a greenhouse world,” Head tells LiveScience. “There was no ice at the poles. There were higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

Remarkably (and alarmingly) such a world is yet again becoming a reality thanks to man-made climate change. According to Head, current average temperatures are only about 2.5 degrees Celsius shy of where they were 40 million years ago.

“Paleontology is really vital for understanding not only where we’ve come from, but where we are now, and where we’re going in the future,” he said.

So expect severe weather, rising sea levels, and – give or take a few million years – the return of giant vegetarian lizards.

About Michael dEstries

Michael has been blogging since 2005 on issues such as sustainability, renewable energy, philanthropy, and healthy living. He regularly contributes to a slew of publications, as well as consulting with companies looking to make an impact using the web and social media. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his family on an apple farm.

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