Spectacularly Colored New Lizard Species Found in Vietnamese Rainforest

An international team of zoologists has discovered a gorgeous new species of lizard in southern Vietnam.

Male Calotes bachae. Due to their shining blue coloration, they can be spotted from far away even in the deep Vietnamese rainforest (Peter Geissler)

“The lizards were well known by the Vietnamese and scientists as well, but until now they were confused with another blue lizard species known from Myanmar and Thailand. By a genetic comparison, the German-Russian research team revealed that the Vietnamese lizards are a distinct new species”, said Timo Hartmann, PhD candidate at the Museum Koenig’s Herpetology Department and lead author of a study published in the journal Zootaxa.

Co-author Dr Nikolay Poyarkov of the Department of Vertebrate Zoology at the Lomonosov University said: “our finding highlights the importance of using new methods like DNA-barcoding in today’s science.”

The new species belongs to the genus Calotes, measures up to 10 cm in length, and has spines on its back.

“To observe the new species no exhausting march into the remote rainforests of Vietnam is necessary. These lizards seem to have arranged themselves well with humans, even in the center of the metropolis Ho Chi Minh City one can find them within parks and flower beds”, added co-author Peter Geissler, also PhD candidate at the Museum Koenig’s Herpetology Department.

Calotes bachae. Left: adult female. Right: juvenile (Peter Geissler)

The species was named Calotes bachae after Rike Bach from Bonn, Germany, in gratitude for supporting Peter Geissler during several fieldtrips in Indochina.

Males of C. bachae impress with their astonishingly rich coloration. During the mating season, their azure heads shine bright like in a contest, just to impress the females.

C. bachae can also reduce their play of colors, similar to the well-known chameleons. For example, at night they are inconspicuously dark and brownish.

“The full species richness of our planet is not nearly recorded yet”, added study senior author Dr Dennis Rödder, Head of the Herpetology Department at the Museum Koenig.

“This latest discovery is the most-recent highlight of a whole series of new reptile and amphibian species discovered by scientist of the Museum Koenig and the Lomonosov University in the last 20 years,” concluded study senior author Prof Wolfgang Böhme, former head of the Herpetology Department at the Museum Koenig.

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Bibliographic information: Timo Hartmann et al. 2013. A new species of the genus Calotes Cuvier, 1817 (Squamata: Agamidae) from southern Vietnam. Zootaxa 3599 (3): 246–260; doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.3599.3.3