Four New Species of Chameleons Discovered in Madagascar

An international team of researchers, led by Dr. Frank Glaw of the Zoological State Collection of Munich in Germany, has discovered four new species of chameleons in Madagascar.

Juvenile of Brookesia micra on head of a match (F. Glaw et al)

Their paper, published online in the Feb. 15 issue of the journal PloS-ONE, describes four dwarf chameleon species from single, mostly karstic, localities in extreme northern Madagascar: Brookesia confidens from Ankarana, B. desperata from Forêt d’Ambre, B. micra from the islet Nosy Hara, and B. tristis from Montagne des Français.

These chameleons, just tens of millimeters from head to tail and in some cases small enough to stand on the head of a match, rank among the smallest reptiles in the world.

Female of Brookesia desperata displaying stress coloration and two recently laid eggs (F. Glaw et al)

The researchers also conducted a genetic analysis to determine that the mini lizards, though similar in appearance, are in fact distinct species.

The smallest of the new species, B. micra, measures only about 15-20 mm (0.6-0.8 inches) in body length.

Male of Brookesia tristis (F. Glaw et al)

The researchers found B. micra on a very small islet. They suggest that this species may represent an extreme case of island dwarfism.

“The extreme miniaturization of these dwarf reptiles might be accompanied by numerous specializations of the bodyplan, and this constitutes a promising field for future research,” Frank Glaw said.

Female of Brookesia confidens (F. Glaw et al)

“But most urgent is to focus conservation efforts on these and other microendemic species in Madagascar which are heavily threatened by deforestation,” the researcher concluded.