World's Tiniest Chameleons Found in Madagascar

Researchers in Madagascar have found the world's tiniest chameleons, some only 10 centimeters long.

Tiniest Chameleons(Photo: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031314.g008)(A) adult male on black background, showing orange tail colouration; (B) juvenile on finger tip; (C) juvenile on head of a match; (D) habitat along a small creek on western flank of Nosy Hara, where part of the type series was collected.

According to a new study published in the online journal PLoS ONE, the Brookesia species of chameleons dwell in rainforests of Madagascar, and adults may measure only an inch. These chameleons are also known as Leaf Chameleons due to their ability to blend in with their leafy surroundings.

"The newly discovered dwarf chameleon species represent striking cases of miniaturization and microendemism," writes researcher Frank Glaw. "The newly described Brookesia micra reaches a maximum snout-vent length in males of 16 mm, and its total length in both sexes is less than 30 mm, ranking it among the smallest amniote vertebrates in the world."  

A press release provided by Glaw states: "The extreme miniaturization of these dwarf reptiles might be accompanied by numerous specializations of the body plan, and this constitutes a promising field for future research. But most urgent is to focus conservations efforts on these and other microendemic species in Madagascar, which are heavily threatened by deforestation."

Reporters also noted that the majority of these particular Leaf Chameleons "were found roosting at night on thin branches about 5-20 cm above the leaf litter in deciduous dry forest. When stressed, individuals can quickly change color and display a broad pale vertebral strip contrasting with the darker flanks"  

Deforestation has threatened both people and animals in Madagascar. An article published in New Scientist states: "Biologically, Madagascar is one of the richest areas on earth. Approximately five percent of the world's species reside in Madagascar." Yet deforestation is a way of life for people in the country, and it often provides economic stability to the poor country.