Miniature Chameleons Discovered


Four new species of miniaturized chameleons rank among the smallest known reptiles in the world.

The super-tiny lizards, identified in Madagascar, measure just tens of millimeters from head to tail. In some cases, they are even small enough to stand on the head of a match, ranking among the smallest reptiles in the world.

The chameleons, described in the journal PLoS ONE, either tie or beat out the prior smallest lizard record-holder, the dwarf gecko Sphaerodactylus ariasae. According to Frank Glaw, lead author of the new paper and a researcher at the Zoological State Collection of Munich, the dwarf gecko’s snout-vent length is at most 18 mm, with a total length of 33 mm (1.3 inches).

The smallest of the new chameleon species, Brookesia micra, (below) was found only on a very small islet called Nosy Hara, and the authors suggest that this species may represent an extreme case of island dwarfism.

We’ve covered island dwarfism a few times before, including our coverage of the dwarf dinosaurs of Transylvania.

“The extreme miniaturization of these dwarf reptiles might be accompanied by numerous specializations of the body plan, and this constitutes a promising field for future research,” Glaw was quoted as saying in a press release. “But most urgent is to focus conservation efforts on these and other microendemic species in Madagascar which are heavily threatened by deforestation.”

While we’re talking about the smallest reptiles, I’d like to also mention the smallest known snake. Glaw and his colleagues point out that it’s the Lesser Antillean thread snake, with a total length of about 4 inches.

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