Updated: February 10, 2021 8:27:26 am
A chameleon discovered in the island country of Madagascar by scientists from Germany and Madagascar may be the world’s smallest adult reptile. The discovery has been reported in the journal Scientific Reports.
The team found one male and one female of the species, named Brookesia nana, during an expedition in 2012. The male has a length (snout to vent) of 13.5 mm and a total length of 21.6 mm when the tail is included. For context, a six-inch ruler (150 mm) would accommodate almost seven of these males in a row, tails outstretched. The female is slightly longer at 28.9 mm.
Previously, the chameleon species Brookesia micra was thought to be the smallest. The average length of adults of this species is 16 mm (29 mm with tail), while the smallest adult male has been recorded at 15.3 mm.
Reptiles come in a wide size range. The longest, the reticulated python, at 6.25 m is almost as long as 289 Brookesia nanas. The gharial is more than 200 Brookesia nanas long, while the king cobra can measure up to nearly 180 Brookesia nanas.
On the smaller size, the gecko Sphaerodactylus ariasae of the Caribbean is almost as small as the Brookesia micra, or about 20-25% longer than the Brookesia nana. The gopher tortoise is equivalent to 12 Brookesia nanas, and the veiled chameleon to about 18 specimens of the newly reported Madagascar species.
Madagascar is home to tiny lizards and also the smallest species of snakes. One possible reason for such small species is the so-called “island effect” that causes species on small islands to get smaller. But the study authors note that the new chameleon occurs in a rainforest. “These forests are quite well connected (for the time being) with others across northern Madagascar, and so this tiny new chameleon violates the pattern of the smallest species being found on small islands. That suggests that something else is allowing/causing these chameleons to miniaturise,” study co-author Dr Mark D Scherz wrote in a blog.
Scientists believe the species might be threatened by extinction because of habitat degradation.
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