Miniature chameleons found in Madagascar — less than 30mm in length!
How small can an animal get? This week is a petite story on the recent discovery of dwarf chameleons in Madagascar.
Madagascar is home to ~43% of the world’s species of chameleons. Among these species, a group of chameleons, Brookesia minima, are miniature leaf chameleons. Researchers from Germany and California went hunting for these leaf chameleons at night, holding torches and headlamps, crouching and checking low branches on the ground for roosting chameleons. The survey lasted for 8 years, between 2000 and 2008. As a result, the research groups discovered four new species of chameleons belonging to Brookesia minima group. Their research article was published in PLoS One last month.
The tiniest of the four new species, Brookesia micra, only measures maximum snout-to-vent length of 16mm. The total length including its tail is less than 30mm, making it among the smallest reptile in the world. B. micra was discovered in an islet called Nosy Hara in the northern tip of Madagascar. These chameleons are active during the day, running around on the ground of limestone boulder or dry forest leaf litter. At night, they rest on low branches ~5cm above the ground.
Researchers believe that B. micra could be an example of “double island dwarfism.” Madagascar as an island led to the evolution of B. minima group, the collection of smallest species of chameleons. Within the large island, B. minima group may have went through further extreme miniaturization and led to the development of B. micra within an isolated block of the island.
Thank you for reading the post, and see you in a week! 🙂