Newly Discovered “Nano-Chameleon” Is World’s Smallest Known Reptile

The male Nano-Chameleon (Brookesia nana) measures just 13.5 mm (0.5 in) longFrank Glaw (SNSB/ZSM)

A new species of chameleon has been discovered and this is the smallest reptile in the world. This is also known as Brookesia nana or the nano-chameleon that can even perch on a fingertip. This is the smallest adult males of any vertebrate. It has been discovered in the northern regions of the island of Madagascar. As of now, only two species of B. nana have been found so far but, conveniently, it’s a male and a female pair.

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The male Nano-Chameleon (Brookesia nana) measures just 13.5 mm (0.5 in) longFrank Glaw (SNSB/ZSM)

It can grow upto body length of 19 mm (0.7 in), or 29 mm (1.1 in) including the tail, which is small enough to place it among the smallest known geckos and chameleons. The researchers had to make sure the specimens weren’t just juveniles. They performed micro CT scans of the female, and identified two eggs inside her, indicating she was mature. Likewise, the male’s genitals seemed to be well-developed, indicating he was also sexually mature. The genitals were almost 20 per cent of his total body size, which the team says would be needed in order to mate with the significantly larger females.

“The closest relative of the new chameleon is also not the similarly tiny Brookesia Micra, but instead the nearly twice as large B. karchei, which occurs in the same mountains,” says Jörn Köhler, an author of the study. “That shows that this extreme miniaturization has arisen convergently in these chameleons.”

Exactly why the species is so small remains a mystery, the team says. It may seem to be an example of the “island effect,” where animals trapped on small islands tend to evolve smaller body sizes. But, the team says, B. nana is found in the mountains on mainland Madagascar, so that doesn’t seem to apply here. Its family tree also raises further questions.

“Unfortunately, the habitat of the Nano-Chameleon is under heavy pressure from deforestation, but the area has recently been designated as a protected area, and hopefully that will enable this tiny new chameleon to survive,” says Oliver Hawlitschek, an author of the study.

Source: Bavarian State Collection of Zoology

Written by Kane Dan

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