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The newly discovered “nano-chameleon” is the smallest known reptile in the world




Species A tiny little chameleon species has been discovered, and it appears to be the smallest reptile in the world. Known as Brookesia nana, or nano-chameleon, small species can be placed on the tip of the finger and may have smaller males grown from each vertebrate.

The species was discovered in the northern regions of the island of Madagascar. Only two copies of B. nana have been found so far, but, aptly, is a pair of males and females. The female has a body length of 19 mm (0.7 in), or 29 mm (1.1 in) including the tail, which is small enough to place it between geckos and the smallest known chameleons.

But men are even smaller, breaking the record. Male B. nana was measured at only 13.5 mm (0.5 in) long, or 22 mm (0.9 in) including the tail. This seems to make it the smallest reptile in the world, just dipping the previous record holder, related species B. tuberculosis, by about half a millimeter.

Of course, researchers had to make sure the samples were not just juveniles. They performed micro-CT scans of the female and identified two eggs inside her, indicating that she was mature. Likewise, the male genitals appear to have been well developed, indicating that he was also sexually mature.

In fact, it was a part of her body that was not small, relatively speaking. The genitals were almost 20 percent of his total body size, which the team says it would take to mate with significantly larger females.

The male Nano-Chameleon (Brookesia nana) measures only 13.5 mm (0.5 in) tall
Male Nano-Chameleon (Brookesia nana) measures only 13.5 mm (0.5 in) long

Frank Glaw (SNSB / ZSM)

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 to smaller body sizes. But the team says, B. nana is found in the mountains in Madagascar, so it does not seem to apply here. Her family tree also raises further questions.

The nearest relative of the new chameleon is not as small Brookesia micra, but rather almost twice as large B. karchei, which occurs in the same mountains, says Jrn Khler, a study author. This shows that this extreme miniature was born convergently in these chameleons.

Researchers say the habitat of the new species is likely to be small as well, perhaps limited to just a few acres. This could put him in danger of extinction.

Unfortunately, the Nano-Chameleon habitat is under great pressure from deforestation, but the area has recently been designated a protected area and hopefully this will allow the young little chameleon to survive, says Oliver Hawlitschek, an author of study.

The research describing the new species was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: Bavarian State Collection of Zoology

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