Hidden beneath the leaf litter of a northern Malagasy forest lives a chameleon so slight that it may tumble off the tip of your finger. Measuring slightly below 30 millimeters from snout to tail, the newly described species, Brookesia nana, could be the smallest reptile on Earth, researchers report January 28 in Scientific Stories.
Simply two grownup specimens, a female and male, are identified. The feminine measures 28.9 millimeters, significantly bigger than the 21.6-millimeter-long male. The dimensions distinction could have pushed the male’s genitalia to be fairly giant — practically 20 p.c of its physique size — to be a greater match to his mate, herpetologist Frank Glaw of the Bavarian State Assortment of Zoology in Munich and colleagues recommend.
Dubbed B. nana for its nano measurement, the species belongs to a genus of not less than 13 different small chameleons unfold out throughout the mountainous forests of northern Madagascar. Why B. nana and its cousins shrank to such minuscule proportions stays a thriller, although smallness does have its advantages: There’s some proof that small chameleons are particularly good photographs with their ballistic tongues.
In daylight, Brookesia chameleons scour the forest ground, snatching up mites and different small invertebrates, Glaw’s workforce suspects. At evening, the lizards retreat upward, gripping blades of grass or different vegetation for security.
Deforestation and habitat degradation threaten B. nana’s future, the researchers say, although the area the place the compact chameleons have been discovered was lately designated a protected space by the Malagasy authorities. The species could quickly be listed as critically endangered, the gravest score made by the Worldwide Union for Conservation of Nature.