The Obamadon watches as a larger lizard hunts its prey (Carl Buell)The scientific community has come up with an unusual way of honoring President Barack Obama after his re-election--by naming an extinct lizard after him.
"I was seriously thinking, if the election had gone the other way, I would have yanked it," Yale paleontologist Nicholas Longrich told the Boston Globe. "It might have seemed like we were mocking it, naming a lizard that goes extinct after that, seemed kind of cruel."
The newly named Obamadon gracilis was a small lizard that fed off of insects and was about a foot long before going extinct about 65 million years ago.
But Longrich and his peers say no one should read any political commentary into the choice. "We're just having fun with taxonomy," he said.
Researchers from Yale and Harvard have been re-examining fossil collections in an ongoing effort to better understand what happened to species during the extinction level event that led to the downfall of the dinosaurs.
In a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Longrich and his colleagues argue that Obamadon gracilis shows that small lizards did not survive the mass extinctions of the era, as was previously believed.
"The lizards that dominate today get their start after the extinction—they radiate in the aftermath," Longrich said. "But that said, the radiation takes a long time."
The new research suggests that no creature weighing more than a pound was likely to have survived, with organisms such as beetles and maggots faring particularly well in the mass deaths of biological organisms and plant life.