Four new species of chameleons were discovered in Madagascar, and have been classified as some of the smallest reptiles in known existence. The only reptile that is smaller is the tiny dwarf gecko found in the British Virgin Islands.
The species were placed under the genus classification Brookesia or leaf chameleons. There are already smaller than normal versions of this genus that have been located and just appear to be tinier versions of the larger chameleons in the genus. Scientists had to use genetic analyzing to determine the chameleons were actually different species.
Over half of this genus is found in one specific area. The smallest of the four newly discovered species, which is the size of a match head, has been classified as Brookesia micra, and it is located only on the small island Nosy Hara. Tiny species in regions such as these is common and is referred to as “island dwarfism.”
Researchers hope to study this phenomenon further, “But most urgent is to focus conservation efforts on these and other microendemic species in Madagascar which are heavily threatened by deforestation, ” said lead author in the study, herpetologist Frank Glaw.
The full study can be found at Plos One.