Planet Earth

Miniature Chameleon Sits on the Head of a Match

80beatsBy Veronique GreenwoodFeb 15, 2012 5:08 PM

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This irascible-looking little guy was recently discovered

by biologists on the small island of Nosy Hara, in northern Madagascar. Members of this newly discovered species are on average an inch long from snout to tail tip, a remarkably tiny size that puts them among the world's smallest reptiles. When not turning their baleful glares at the camera, they run around in a landscape of limestone boulders and leaf fragments and at night roost in low-hanging vegetation no more than a couple inches from the ground. Their diminutive size seems to be the evolutionary result of a phenomenon called island dwarfism

, by which animals slowly shrink in size, perhaps in response to the limited resources available on an island (though it also goes the other way, a phenomenon called island gigantism

, possibly a result of having few predators). The species' name, reflecting its tiny-ness, is Brookesia micra.

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