Nature and Biodiversity

This newly discovered chameleon is the smallest reptile on earth

 Image of the 'Brookesia nana' or 'Nano-chameleon' sitting on the end of a matchstick

An expedition team has discovered the world's smallest reptile in northern Madagascar. Image: REUTERS/Zoologische Staatssammlung Muenchen/Joern Koehler

Reuters Staff
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Madagascar

  • Scientists have discovered the 'nano-chameleon' which is the smallest out of 11,500 known species of reptiles.
  • The male of the species has a body that is only 13.5 mm long.
  • Nano-chameleons have previously suffered deforestation, but their habitat is now protected.

Scientists say they discovered a sunflower seed-sized subspecies of chameleon that may well be the smallest reptile on Earth.

Two of the miniature lizards, one male and one female, were discovered by a German-Madagascan expedition team in northern Madagascar.

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The male Brookesia nana, or nano-chameleon, has a body that is only 13.5 mm (0.53 inches) long, making it the smallest of all the roughly 11,500 known species of reptiles, the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology in Munich said. Its total length from nose to tail is just under 22 mm (0.87 inch).

Image of the nano-chameleon on the fingernail of a researchers hand in Madagascar
The body of a male nano-chameleon is just 13.5mm long. Image: REUTERS/Zoologische Staatssammlung Muenchen/Frank Glaw

The female nano-chameleon is significantly larger, with an overall length of 29 mm, the research institute said, adding that the scientists were unable to find further specimens of the new subspecies “despite great effort”.

The species’ closest relative is the slightly larger Brookesia micra, whose discovery was announced in 2012.

Scientists assume that the lizard’s habitat is small, as is the case for similar subspecies.

“The nano-chameleon’s habitat has unfortunately been subject to deforestation, but the area was placed under protection recently, so the species will survive,” Oliver Hawlitschek, a scientist at the Center of Natural History in Hamburg, said in a statement.

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