Ancient Extinct Lizard Named After President Obama

Yale researcher says 'The Obamadon' was wiped out by the same asteroid that killed off dinosaurs.

FE_PR_121210Iguana.jpg

A modern-day iguana. The ancient Obamadon, which died out 65 million years ago, was about one foot long.

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A newly discovered lizard that went extinct during prehistoric times now shares a name with President Barack Obama.

A new study by Yale researcher Nicholas Longrich published Monday has found that 85 percent of lizard and snake species, long thought to have survived an asteroid blast that wiped out dinosaurs some 65 million years ago, went extinct at the same time. Among the casualties was a foot-long lizard that lived in Montana, that Longrich has named "The Obamadon."

[READ: Dinosaurs May Have Once Roamed Grand Canyon]

"The Obamadon was probably a foot long, with these tall, slender teeth it used to eat insects and plant matter," he says. The Obamadon died out after the Chicxulub asteroid impact, along with many of the larger lizards and snakes still alive at the time.

"It's something a lot of people haven't thought about—we have a variety of large lizards and snakes now, and we did then, too," he says. "But the fact is many current snakes and lizards aren't related [to the ancient ones]." Obama also has a species of fungus (the Caloplaca obamae) and a fish (the Etheostoma obama) named after him.

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Longrich arrived at the idea of naming a lizard or dinosaur after Obama shortly after he won the presidency in 2008, and finally got the chance while conducting research for the study, in which he describes nine new species.

"The name was something we came up with back in late 2008, in the wake of the election when everything was all hope-y and change-y, we said we should name a dinosaur after him and call it the Obamadon," he says. "I think everyone can find something to like in it—liberals will think it's an honor, conservatives can say, 'Well, it's some wretched extinct lizard.'"

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Jason Koebler is a science and technology reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at jkoebler@usnews.com.