Is it the smallest reptile in the world? | Earth

With a size of only 0.53 inches (13.5 mm), this nano-chameleon (Brookesia babe) is the smallest known male of the approximately 11,500 known reptile species. Picture via Frank Glaw.

A team of German-Malagasy biologists has discovered a tiny new species of chameleon that may be the smallest reptile on Earth. Scientists found two of the tiny lizards, a male and a female, in northern Madagascar, and named the new species Brookesia babe, or nano-chameleon. According to their study, published January 28, 2021 in the review Scientific reportsthe male nano-chameleon has a body that is only half an inch (13.5mm) long – about the size of a sunflower seed – making it the smallest of the approximately 11,500 reptile species known on the planet.

Frank Glaw, curator of herpetology at the Bavarian National Zoological Collection is the first author of the study. He said in a declaration:

With a body length of only 13.5 mm (0.53 inches) and a total length of only 22 mm (0.87 inches), including tail, the male nano-chameleon is the smallest known male of all ” higher vertebrates»

The female is larger, with a body length of 0.7 inches (19 mm) and a total length of 1 inch (29 mm).

Small chameleon perched on the fingertip.
The male nano-chameleon (Brookesia babe) is the smallest adult reptile ever found. Picture via Frank Glaw.

Study co-author Andolalao Rakotoarison from the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar said:

There are many extremely miniaturized vertebrates in Madagascar, including the smallest primates and some of the world’s smallest frogs, which have evolved independently. But why this species is so small remains a mystery.

Despite intensive efforts, the searchers were only able to find two individuals.
The ranges of most dwarf chameleons are very small, so researchers expect the nano-chameleon to also have a very limited range. Olivier Hawlitschek of the Centrum für Naturkunde in Hamburg, Germany, said:

Unfortunately, the nano-chameleon’s habitat is under great pressure from deforestation, but the area has recently been designated as a protected area, and we hope this will allow this little new chameleon to survive.

Bottom Line: Scientists say this sunflower seed-sized nano-chameleon (Brookesia nana) is the smallest known male of some 11,500 known reptile species.

Source: Extreme miniaturization of a new amniotic vertebrate and insight into the evolution of genital size in chameleons

Via the Bavarian Natural History Collections (Staatliche Naturwissenschaftliche Sammlungen Bayerns)

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