A chameleon discovered in Madagascar could be the smallest reptile in the world | Smart News
Researchers have found what may be the smallest reptile on the planet in the rainforests of northern Madagascar, reports Jason Bittel for National geographic. The tiny new lizard is a species of chameleon named Brookesia babeand is so small his whole body can fit on the tip of a finger, according to a new article published last week in the journal Scientific reports.
A lizard called the Caribbean gecko (Sphaerodactylus ariasae) is the former record holder for the smallest reptile on Earth, but the changing of the guard is made somewhat murky by the fact that only the male b.nana specimen found by scientists is smaller than the Caribbean gecko. The little male b.nana measures just half an inch from the nose to the base of the tail, reports Brandon Specktor for Live Science. The female, on the other hand, comes in at three quarters of an inch in length. According to National geographic, The former Smallest Chameleon titleholder is a member of b.nanaits own kind, Brookesia micra.
“It’s kind of silly to be like, ‘Oh, that’s a few millimeters smaller than that other thing,'” said Mark Scherz, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Potsdam and co-author of the paper. ‘study. National geographic. “But when millimeters are two or three percent of your body size, that’s a lot of change. Most science happens in these small incremental steps.
The article also notes that in addition to the male’s tiny overall length, he distinguished himself by possessing unusually large genitalia for his size – nearly 20% of his body length. Researchers hypothesize that males of the species may sport their oversized sex organs, a two-pronged affair called hemipenes in lizards and snakes, to copulate more effectively with larger ones. b.nana females. And, if you’re wondering why these researchers were so concerned about this tiny lizard’s undercarriage, it’s because the shape of reptile genitalia is often species-specific. So that was one of the first things they looked at to determine if they had found a new species, Sherz explained in a series of tweets on research.
In general, reptile hemipenes (~paired penises) can often be species-specific in their morphology, which means you can use them to identify species. The same is true for beetles and many other arthropods. In the case of chameleons, structures can be… absolutely crazy (14/21) pic.twitter.com/0cIIzGjRm7
— Dr. Mark D. Scherz (@MarkScherz) January 28, 2021
So far, only two members of the new species have been recorded by scientists, so it’s possible that the true average length of their species is longer or shorter than the measurements reported in the study. Other members of the Brookesia genus are also tiny, and although they are chameleons, they don’t have much ability to change color, Scherz tells Isaac Shultz Gizmodo.
By virtue of residing in the rainforests of Madagascar, which are cut down to make way for agriculture and livestock, b.nana is almost certainly threatened with extinction despite a lack of knowledge of its true conservation status, according to Live Science.
Fortunately, b.nana‘s habitat in an area known as the Sorata Massif has recently been consecrated into a new protected area, but the reality in Madagascar is that many of its inhabitants have little economic recourse but to cut into its remaining forests to make grow crops or raise animals, Scherz recounts National geographic.
“It’s fine to say, ‘Oh, I really hope people stop cutting down this forest,'” Scherz says. “But until Madagascar’s economic future changes, there is no hope for its wildlife because people have to eat.”