Tiny chameleon Brookesia nana may be the smallest reptile on Earth


Chameleons are hard enough to spot at the best of times thanks to their adaptive camouflage that help them blend into their surroundings, but scientists have just discovered one so small you can hardly see it with the naked eye.

The male “nano-chameleon” has a body just over a centimetre in length, around 13.5 millimetres to be precise.

From tip to tail it still comes in under an inch at 22 millimetres.

The lizard has been named Brookesia nana and it might be the smallest reptile on the face of the earth.

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Two of the tiny lizards were discovered in northern Madagascar by an expedition of German and Madagascan scientists.

The other was a larger female measuring 29 millimetres.

Despite “great efforts” by the expedition they were unable to find more of the lizards, and they believe they have a small habitat, similar to the slightly bigger Brookesia micra that was discovered in 2012.

That small habitat is also shrinking according to the University of Hamburg’s Centre of Natural History scientist Oliver Hawlitschek.

“The nano-chameleon’s habitat has unfortunately been subject to deforestation, but the area was placed under protection recently, so the species will survive,” Mr Hawlitschek said.

His colleague Dr Mark Scherz described the tiny lizard as “a spectacular case of extreme miniaturisation” in a blog post announcing the discovery.

But not everything about the new lizard is small.

“The male has quite large genitalia,” Dr Scherz wrote.

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“This prompted us to look at the relationship between genital and body size in chameleons, which revealed an interesting pattern: The smallest species often have the proportionally largest genital sizes.

“We think that this might also be related to size dimorphism: If the female remains larger than the male, a constraint is placed on the reduction of the male genital siz,” Dr Scherz added.

The findings of their research, including the discovery of the Brookesia nana have been published in the open access journal Science Reports.



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