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An Extreme Case of Island Dwarfism

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Recently, researchers have discovered four new species of miniaturized chameleons in Madagascar.  From snout to tail it measures only 3 centimeters, small enough to stand on a fingertip. Pretty little guys compared to the largest known chameleon species of 70 centimeters that lives in the same country.

According to the genetic analysis of the researchers, the mini chameleons are a distinct species, although they look quite similar to other species. The smallest of the new species, Brookesia Micra, was found only on the tiny island called Nosy Hara, northwest of the main island of Madagascar. The researchers suggest that the chameleons may present an extreme case of island dwarfism. “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,” said herpetologist Frank Glaw, lead author of the study, in a press release.

Unfortunately, the little fellas are threatened with extinction because of their extreme sensitivity to habitat destruction. Something you might expect of a creature so small. “Most urgent is to focus conservation efforts on these and other micro-endemic species in Madagascar which are heavily threatened by deforestation”, said Glaw.

Source: Eurekalert, Wired

Glaw F, Köhler J, Townsend TM, Vences M (2012). Rivaling the World’s Smallest Reptiles: Discovery of Miniaturized and Microendemic New Species of Leaf Chameleons (Brookesia) from Northern Madagascar. PLoS ONE, 7 (2)

Photo via Sci-News

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