World's smallest chameleons have been found in Madagascar, with some so small they can stand comfortably on the tip of a match. Researchers led by Frank Glaw, from the Zoological State Collection in Munich, have discovered four new species of miniature chameleons in Madagascar. These new species are among the smallest reptiles known in the world. Their findings are published on the Feb. 15 issue of the open access journal PLoS ONE.
The new species belong to a genus or group of very small lizards, named Brookesia. The new species, named confidens, desperate, micra and tristis, were all found on unique and restricted localities in Northern Madagascar. As Frank Glaw relates, the smallest of these species, Brookesia micra, was a not an easy find, "it was quite hard work to spot them at dusk and at night with torches between the karstic limestone bolders and attacked by many mosquitoes[sic]". This species, less than 20mm in length, ranks among the worlds smallest known reptiles and represents a candidate for research on adaptations related to extreme miniaturization.
An Endangered World
Besides being interesting and engaging, finding new species in places like Madagascar is the first step necessary to aid in their conservation, as these and many other species are currently under threat by the growing deforestation in the region. The job done by Frank and his team serves an important function, "Once their existence is officially known by a scientific name, their conservation status can be assessed and measures to protect their habitat can be taken." Additionally, being the focus of attention will also help in other ways, as Frank explains: "the media interest in these tiny chameleons may also help to increase the awareness for the wonderful nature and people of Madagascar."
More to come?
Frank has been an active explorer and researcher in Madagascar for the last 25 years, and with amazing results; so far his team has discovered nearly 140 new species of frogs and reptiles. And the search continues, "I hope to be able to continue my research on the fascinating amphibians and reptiles of Madagascar for another 25 years. There is still so much to discover in this wonderful island!" On November 2012 Frank Glaw and his team are once more set for an expedition, this time in a remote rainforest in northeastern Madagascar.