Mark Witton/Trustees of NHM

Story highlights

A team of scientists with a penchant for hard rock wanted to pay homage to an icon

"He was this big old nasty thing": the prehistoric crocodile, that is.

CNN —  

A prehistoric crocodile once roamed the shallow seas of the Middle Jurassic period, crushing prey with its massive jaw and blunt teeth. A British heavy metal icon once roamed the world’s stages, piercing his audience’s eardrums with his distorted Rickenbacker bass. Thanks to a newly published scientific discovery, the duo is now bound by a name.

Lemmysuchus obtusidens: “Absolute monster’

Lemmysuchus obtusidens was unveiled in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society earlier this week, after a team of international scientists led by University of Edinburgh paleontologist Michela Johnson found that a prehistoric teleosaur specimen at London’s Natural History Museum (NHM) had been misidentified for more than 100 years.

After intensive study of the fossil’s jaw and teeth, the team realized they were working with something completely different.

A team of international scientists discovered a prehistoric crocodile and named it after Motörhead  front man Lemmy Kilmister.
Natural History Museum
A team of international scientists discovered a prehistoric crocodile and named it after Motörhead front man Lemmy Kilmister.

At 19 feet long, “it was an absolute monster compared to other teleosaurs,” team member and NHM curator Dr. Lorna Steel told CNN.

Their specimen’s teeth were blunt-tipped and massive, and the skull was over 3 feet long, two key differences from other teleosaurs from the Middle Jurassic period previously known to science.

After careful research and an exhaustive journal review process, the team had to decide on a name for their find.

Steel pitched the idea to name the ferocious predator after Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, the legendary Motörhead front man who passed away at the age of 70 in 2015.

“I’ve always been into heavy rock,” Steel tells CNN. “Motörhead are one of my favorite bands and since Lemmy died I have been thinking, ‘How I can I get something named after Lemmy?’

The other team members loved the idea, and Lemmysuchus obtusidens was born.

Steel tells CNN that the name not only paid homage to one of her favorite musicians, but also aptly described the fearsome crocodile, “he was this big old nasty thing … he could have taken anything out that he wanted to eat.”

Lemmy Kilmister: Put it all out there

Kilmister, whose hard-charging music and hard-drinking lifestyle provided the namesake for Lemmysuchus, played rapid-fire bass guitar and provided his signature whiskey-soaked growl on such Motörhead songs as “Ace of Spades” and “I Ain’t No Nice Guy.”

The British trio released 23 studio albums over their 40-year career and are widely praised as pioneers of speed and thrash metal.

Lemmy wearing his signature hat at the Grammy Awards in  early 2015.
Jason Merritt/Getty Images North America/Getty Images/file
Lemmy wearing his signature hat at the Grammy Awards in early 2015.

Lemmy’s place in rock ’n’ roll history was evident when Slash of Guns N’ Roses and Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl were among the musical luminaries who lined up to speak at the memorial service following his death from cancer.

Lemmysuchus was a teleosaur, a group of extinct marine crocodiles who lived around 164 million years ago, according to a NHM press release.

The specimen had been housed at the Natural History Museum since it’s discovery in 1909. It was initially misidentified as another marine crocodile found at the same eastern England quarry, NHM says.

Now extinct, sea crocodiles patrolled the coastal waters of Europe during the Middle Jurassic time, and Steel says the 19-foot-long Lemmysuchus, which had teeth equipped to eat turtles and large fish, was the likely king of the pack.

Lemmy isn’t the first musician to have a fossil named after him. Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson and Mark Knopfler already have that distinction.

Steel tells CNN that there has been quite a buzz about their rock star fossil since their findings were published Monday night, and she’s received social media kudos from Motörhead fans all over the world.

“It’s been going a bit bananas,” Steels says. “But it’s all in good fun and you get to leave your mark, that’s what so great about it.”

Lemmy wouldn’t have it any other way.

CNN’s Amanda Watts contributed to this story.