The smallest Chameleon in the world has been discovered on a tiny tropical island just off Madagascar, a country east of Mozambique ↗️, Africa.
Native to the islet of Nosy Hara in Antsiranana, the smallest Chameleon in the world (Brookesia micra) is also among one of earth’s smallest reptiles overall, only second to maybe the dwarf gecko (Sphaerodactylus ariasae) and the Virgin Islands dwarf sphaero (S. parthenopion).
The discovery was made in 2007, and marks an incredible milestone in the reptile community, but it’s not the first time a ground-breaking discovery has been made in the reptile world.
In 1994, another collection of tropical islands in New Caledonia ↗️ washed up an incredible species. Thought to be extinct since 1866 by a French zoologist, the crested gecko, also known as the ”eyelash gecko” or its scientific name, the Correlophus Ciliatus, is a soft skinned nocturnal gecko that was rediscovered by German herpetologist Friedrich Wilhelm Henkel ↗️ and his team during a storm.
The crested gecko has become a worldwide sensation for enthusiasts that breed them in captivity, generating millions of dollars of revenue per year worldwide since exporting began in 1994. Though that was restricted a few years later by the French government, leading breeders of the species to use the existing animals to cross-breed and create new lineage which created incredible colorations as you can see in Jay Wheeler’s ↗️ pictures, the owner of Future Exotics.↗️
While the smallest chameleon in the world has not become such a sensation, it is still a huge discovery in herpetology. ↗️
The smallest chameleon in the world can reach 16mm (0.5 inches) in length as an adult which makes the smallest vertebrates ever found on earth, but the Brookesia micra was not the only tiny chameleon discovered. Researchers also announce three more species that were found on the tropical island.
Frank Glaw, an experienced herpetologist and curator at the Munich’s Museum of Natural History, who led the research team had experience finding tiny lizards in Madagascar before, used flashlights and head torches to seek out the masters of camouflage under the cover of darkness. Unlike the crested gecko and other gecko species, chameleons aren’t nocturnal and a chameleon sleeping in the day is usually a sign of concern for their health.
The chameleons were difficult to spot, he said, but once spotted, they’re not very difficult to catch due to their slow movement which they use to mimic the wind in order to camouflage themselves in trees to hide from predators.
“They are sleeping and you can just pick them up. It’s like picking a strawberry, so it’s easy,” Glaw said. “They do not move at all at night.”
Unfortunately, the chameleons are under extreme threat due to deforestation in Madagascar and chameleons require special conditions and habitat in order to survive. Further expeditions will follow; “I’m sure there are many surprises awaiting discovery,” he said.
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