Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Hundreds of new frogs have been discovered recently in Madagascar (see Frogs, deformed and fanciful), and hundreds of species of miniature frogs (see Microhylids) have been discovered over the years, but intent night-time expeditions in Madagascar's preserves and on the country's surrounding islands have now revealed 4 newly identified species of miniature lizard! Not only are the new chameleons of the genus Brookesia extremely small, they rank among the tiniest vertebrates in the entire world. With their limited distribution - B. confidens was found in Ankarana, B. desperata (3rd image) in Forêt d'Ambre, B. micra (1st and 2nd images) on Nosy Hara, and B. tristis on Montagne des Français), they may represent extreme cases of island dwarfism. Scanning the most likely habitats during the wet season using flashlights and headlamps, the scientists found the roosting sites of the lizards mere inches off the forest floor. "They mostly live in the leaf litter in the day. But at night they climb up and then you can spot them." They eat insects and tiny mites, they are brown to blend in with the trees, and they don't change colors like other chameleons. Once they are spotted, they are not hard to capture: "They are sleeping and you can just pick them up. It's like picking a strawberry, so it's easy. They do not move at all at night." But habitat loss and deforestation mean that these little guys, who grow to no larger than an inch (30mm), may be crowded out of the little territory they need. “These tiny reptiles are threatened with extinction.” Their discoverers have referenced this plight in the choice of species names: desperata means desperate in Latin and tristis means sad. The men who found, named, described, and have now brought attention to the lizards are Frank Glaw of the Zoologische Staatssammlung München in Germany and his colleagues Jörn Köhler of Germany's Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt, Miguel Vences of the Zoological Institute at the Technical University of Braunschweig, and Ted M. Townsend of San Diego State University. They describe the miniaturized lizards in the journal PLoS ONE and - thanks to a Creative Commons license - you can read the entire article here!


  1. Kathleen Kotcher2/15/2012 2:41 PM

    I saw a similar article in The Times today. While it is very sad their numbers are declining, there is a not-very-well-concealed part of me that wants one just so I can carry it around on the head of a matchstick. Oh, and I want a lemur. There are loads of (also rapidly declining numbers) of lemurs in Madagascar.
    I suppose one could live in Madagascar, but it seems terribly inconvenient. I'll just stick to dogs for now.

  2. As always, you find the most odd, interesting stuff, Ms. Squigley. -- Rick

  3. Wow, those little guys are *tiny*!


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