Jul 12, 2013 10:07 AM EDT
Small Herbivorous Lizards Can Grow To the Size of 10ft Reptiles, Study
Small plant-eating lizards could grow to the size of 10 feet dragons, according to researchers from the University of California and University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The paleontologists from the UC Berkeley's Museum of Paleontology believe that small-sized lizards require a warmer climate to grow into large lizards and the current global warming conditions could help them attain just that. They think that some modern-day reptiles can also grow larger as global temperatures continue to increase.
Scientists arrived at the conclusion after examining fossils of a giant vegetarian lizard discovered in Myanmar, Burma. They think that a rise in temperature 40 million years ago caused this cold blooded animal to grow to the size of a Komodo dragon. The temperature is estimated to be significantly hotter than the current climate.
Prior to this revelation, scientists thought that huge carnivorous dragons grew larger compared to their herbivores counterparts due to the absence of predators.
The fossils of the giant lizard, dubbed Barbaturex morrisoni, were originally found in Burma by scientists from University of Iowa and Duke University in the 1970s. Recently, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln paleontologists started studying the jaw bones of the giant lizard's fossil.
The study also found that the 10-foot-long creature lived in a time when there was absence of ice at the poles and presence of more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
According to Daily Mail, the lizard king features ridges along the inside of its mouth that imply that the animal may have had a skin flap in its throat, which in turn means that the lizard was probably a plant-eater.
'What's cool is that this is an example of gigantism in herbivorous lizards, which tells us that if you're a reptile and vegetarian, you have to have a warm environment,' said Patricia Holroyd, vertebrate paleontologist of UC Berkeley's Museum of Paleontology. 'These guys were nearly six feet long and weighed about 60 pounds, bigger than the antelopes in the area.'
The paleontologists also predicted the old lizard to be around six-foot long from nose to tail, weighed about 68 lbs and could have resembled the present-day bearded dragons.
Apart from the warmer climate, lack of large animals (that compete with them or eat them) is also necessary for the plant-eating lizards to grow larger.
'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,' Jason Head, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, said.
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