Scientists honored Doors frontman Jim Morrison with a tribute worthy of the “Lizard King”: naming a giant ancient reptile after him. The new lizard was documented in a paper published on Wednesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
At six feet long and weighing in at an estimated 60 pounds, the newly discovered Barbaturex morrisoni would have dominated the jungles of Myanmar 45 million years ago. But this lizard king didn’t terrorize other creatures; he was a plant-eater. University of Nebraska-Lincoln scientist (and Doors fan) Jason Head told the Los Angeles Times that he also considered naming the find after gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.
"If you read 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,' he's hallucinating giant lizards," Head said. "But it wasn't really a contest. It was definitely Morrison."
Jim Morrison isn’t the only musician to be honored with a namesake animal. Decades ago, scientists were more likely to honor the classics, as with Mozartella beethoveni, an encyrtid wasp described in 1926. But the rise of pop and rock has been reflected in the taxonomy books as well as on the Billboard charts.
Lady Gaga has two species of ferns named after her: Gaga germanotta, and Gaga monstraparva, in honor of the “Born This Way” singer’s fans, who are sometimes called “little monsters.” Gaga also has a wasp named after her, Aleoides gaga.
Another wasp named after an occasionally controversial pop-rock musician is Preseucoila imallshokupis. This gall wasp (a wasp who lays its eggs inside trees) is named both after mid-century heartthrob Elvis Presley and one of his signature hits, “All Shook Up.”
The Antarctic dinosaur Cryolophosaurus had a bony crest on its head that looked a bit like the Pelvis’s signature pompadour, which earned it the informal nickname of “Elvisaurus.”
Four members of the Ramones have a namesake trilobite, all within the same genus: Mackenziurus johnnyi, M. joeyi, M. deedeei, and M. ceejayi. James Brown has a mite named Funkotriplogynium iagobadius (“iago” being the Welsh equivalent of James, with “badius” being the Latin term for brown).
Frank Zappa is a favorite of scientists. He’s accumulated an impressive number of tributes: Pachygnatha zappa, a spider with markings that look like the musician’s iconic mustache; Zappa, a genus of mudskipper; and the jellyfish Phialella zappai. Ferdinando Boero, the Italian expert who discovered P. zappai, said he picked the name as a part of a strategy to meet Zappa in California. It worked; Boero and Zappa struck up a friendship, and the rocker inserted references to Boero and the jellyfish during a 1988 concert stop in Genoa.
Roxanne has liked science ever since she started watching "Bill Nye the Science Guy" on Saturday mornings over a bowl of sucrotic O's. She especially likes writing about...