Here Be Dragons: 3 Spiny Lizard Species Found In The Andes

Colorful, spiny and just inches long, three new species of lizards discovered in the Andes might be the cutest dragon replacements on Earth.

Wood lizards are often described as miniature dragons because of their penetrating eyes, richly patterned skin, and rows of spike-like scales. So far, only 12 species of the genus Enyalioides were known, and five of them were discovered in the last seven years alone.

The three new species have been found in the cloud forests of Peru and Ecuador, an international research team reported today (April 6) in the ZooKeys Diary. These high-altitude rainforests are permanently shrouded in fog and mist, creating an otherworldly environment teeming with biological diversity. [In Photos: Life Up in the Clouds]

The team, led by Omar Torres-Carvajal of the Museo de Zoología QCAZ in Ecuador, also unearthed the other five species of wood lizards recorded in recent years. “The diversity of these remarkable reptiles has been underestimated,” Torres-Carvajal said. said in a press release.

Enyalioides sophiarothschildae, one of three new species of wood lizards discovered in the Andes. (Image credit: Pablo J. Venegas/CC-BY 4.0)

Wood lizards are between 3 and 6 inches (7 to 15 centimeters) long, making them one of the largest lizards in the Amazon rainforest. The lizards’ colors and patterns help them blend in with the environment, the researchers said.

Each of the three new species differs from its parents in body characteristics such as color, shape and size of scales, as well as their mitochondrial DNA, according to the study.

Scientists have named one of the new lizards E. sophiarothschildae, after Sophia Rothschild, donor of the German BIOPAT program. (BIOPAT donors can suggest names for newly discovered plant and animal species.)

The new wood lizard was discovered in the upper basin of the Huallaga River at 4,921 feet (1,500 meters) above sea level in northern Peru. It has a greenish-black back with olive markings and a conspicuous white throat patch. Huge scales trail along its spine.

Enyalioides anisolepis, a new colorful lizard from the Andes. (Image credit: Dr. Omar Torres-Carvajal/CC-BY 4.0)

Other newly described lizards are E. anisolepis and E.altotambo. The 5 inch long (13 cm) lizard E.anisolepis takes its name from a Greek word meaning uneven scales, which refers to the differently sized scales on its back, sides, and limbs. This scaly lizard also has conical spikes protruding from the back of its head. Males are black and green, and females are mottled pale brown. The species lives in both northern Peru and southern Ecuador between 2,375 and 5,715 feet (724 and 1742 m) above sea level.

To finish, E.altotambo refers to the town of Alto Tambo, Ecuador, where this bright green lizard was found. Both males and females closely resemble the warty, thick-necked dragon called “Gronckle” from the 2010 movie “How to Train Your Dragon.” The new species also resembles another wood lizard, named E. oshaughnessyi, but the irises of close cousins ​​differ in color – one species has coffee-brown eyes, and the eyes of the other species are devilish red. As well, E.altotamboThe scales are all the same size, according to the study. E. oshaughnessyi has increasingly smaller scales walking on its back.

Follow Becky Oskin @beckyoskin. Follow the science live @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on Live Science.

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