Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Rivaling the World's smallest Reptiles: New tiny Chameleons discovered in Madagascar

German and American scientists under the lead of Frank Glaw (Zoologische Staatssammlung München) report about newly discovered dwarf chameleons from Madagascar (published in PLoS One).
The smallest of the four new species, Brookesia micra, reaches 24 mm in total length including tail and thus ranges among the smalles known reptile species in the world. Juveniles can comfortably sit on the head of a match. All four new species inhabit extremely small ranges and are therefore highly threatened as deforestation on the island continues.

Madagascar is famous for its high levels of species diversity and endemism. Almost 300 species of frogs and approximately 400 species of reptiles live in the rainforests, mountains and arid areas of the island, and new species are regularly discovered. More than 40% of the 193 named chameleon species occur solely on this large island situated off the East African coast. There are also a remarkable number of miniaturized species, including dwarf frogs, dwarf lemurs and dwarf chameleons.
Biologists from Germany and America have discovered four additional miniaturized chameleons in the north of Madagascar (published in PLoS ONE), one of them distinctly smaller than all other known chameleons. The newly described Brookesia micra reaches a maximum snout-vent length in males of 16 mm, and its total length in both sexes is less than 29 mm, ranking it among the smallest reptiles in the world.

"It is not accidental that the smallest species of a given taxonomic group often occur on islands,” says Frank Glaw of the Zoologische Staatssammung in Munich, "it is a typical and well known phenomenon “. Exactly why Brookesia micra is so extremely small is still insufficiently studied, but could be due to a "double island effect," as this species is only known from a small (115 ha) karstic islet just a few kilometers separated from the mainland of Madagascar. The extreme miniaturization of Brookesia micra might also be accompanied by numerous adaptations of the bodyplan - a promising field for future research.

Small enough to stand on the head of a match. A juvenile of Brookesia micra, one of the smallest reptiles in the world. Photo by Jörn Köhler

Like an alien: A portrait of an adult specimen of one of the newly discovered mini chamaleons, Brookesia desperata. Photo by Frank Glaw

All of the newly discovered chameleons appear to be restricted to very small distribution ranges, sometimes limited to a few square kilometers. "For this reason they might be especially sensitive to habitat destruction" says Jörn Köhler of the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt. "One of the new species, Brookesia desperata, is known only from a small rainforest remnant, and although this area is officially protected, it has suffered severe habitat degradation". The future survival of Brookesia tristis is uncertain as well. In the time since its habitat was designated a nature reserve, illegal logging has increased significantly - probably at least partially due to the current political crisis in Madagascar. The species names of these two chameleons (desperata = desperate, tristis = sad) were consciously chosen to call attention to their uncertain futures.

"The tiny new chameleons show remarkable genetic divergences between species, although superficially they closely resemble each other. This indicates that they separated from each other millions of years ago - even earlier than many other chameleon species,” says Miguel Vences from the Technical University of Braunschweig. "The genus Brookesia is the most basal group within chameleons", adds Ted Townsend of San Diego State University, who carried out the genetic studies. "This suggests that chameleons might have evolved in Madagascar from small and inconspicuous ancestors, quite unlike the larger and more colourful chameleons most familiar to us today.”

Original article:
F. Glaw, J. Köhler, T. Townsend, M. Vences: Rivaling the World's Smallest Reptiles: Discovery of Miniaturized and Microendemic New Species of Leaf Chameleons (Brookesia) from Northern Madagascar. PLoS ONE (DOI 0031314)

For further information please contact
Dr. Jörn Köhler
Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt
Friedensplatz 1, 64283 Darmstadt
Tel.: +49 (6151) 16-5781, FAX : +49 (6151) 16-5798

Yvonne Mielatz
Leiterin Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit
Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt
Friedensplatz 1, 64283 Darmstadt
Tel.: +49 (6151) 16-5793, FAX : +49 (6151) 16-5797

Yvonne Mielatz | idw
Further information:

Further reports about: Brookesia Brookesia micra Chameleons chameleon species new species reptiles

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>