Miniature Chameleon Sits on the Head of a Match

By Veronique Greenwood | February 15, 2012 12:08 pm

chameleon

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.

chameleon

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World
  • Bob

    I could have done without the super close-up of the fingernail, which looks like it needs to be trimmed, btw.

  • Ron

    Focus, Bob, focus … how soon will we see these in the pet store? Perfect for the mini-terrarium.

  • http://discovermagazine.com Iain

    It’s not April already is it? How does such a tiny reptile maintain sufficient body heat to survive? There is a program that can check for photo shop like ‘enhancements’ was this photo checked?

  • Chris

    I just hope he doesn’t scratch the match!

  • Aiden

    I seriously doubt this was photoshop Iain..

  • http://www.thewritersclinic.com Jean Gogolin

    @Bob — Do you have a thing about fingernails to make such an inane comment? This was a fascinating post.

  • fluttershy

    Awwwwwwwww,it’s so ADORABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Veronique Greenwood

    @Ron, hopefully never! These little guys are rare, and they need to be left alone in their habitat. If you want to help them out, look into the forest preserve where they were found.

  • JOHN ALLEN Stein C.

    Es sorprendente y hermoso. Pero me queda la duda si no es un ejemplar recién salido del cascarón, aunque tiene pinta de adulto.

  • Renee

    Wow, that’s the biggest finger I’ve ever seen.

    But, seriously, in answer to response #8, **please** do not go trying to find these little guys in their native habitat. You could be the person who unwittingly brings in some devastating fungus that ends up decimating their population. Wait until your local aquarium acquires a couple of the little guys, then go look as much as you want to.

  • Hilary

    It is sooo cute and tiny. I love it.

  • Robin

    I’m amazed that a fully developed eye can be so small. I assumed that the complexity of the organ required it to be bigger. I find this quite incredible.

  • fintin

    Wow. Sometimes I get real wake up calls on how delicate nature can be, and this is one of those rude awakenings.

  • curiositygeek

    Amazing. I can’t imagine what helps them survive without being stepped on by something. He is a cutie. Nature, after all these years, still full of surprises.

  • http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/news/091001_madagascar Sam S.

    It’s so tiny. Madagascar could be a cool island to go visit because species evolve and diversify in isolation.

  • david germain

    how on earth do you not squish it be mistake?

  • Terence

    Nano technology in the animal world…

  • http://BadAstronamy ErisArticWolf

    Mini Reptiles? Lock up the Reptile Fanatics!!!!!!!!! AND LOOK OUT FOR POACHERS

  • Diane

    He’s just toooooo cute~!! Here’s hoping that mankind doesn’t obliterate him or the species~!

  • Diane

    I hope this little guy survives for eons~!

  • chadwickid

    you never really know what might be lurking underneath you. Let’s all get together to preserve this fantastic creature and it’s environment

  • Barry

    Look at that scaly skin! And the chameleon looks kind of rough too.

  • Geack

    @ Iain,
    Madagascar is warm.

  • cliff

    could these little guys be transplanted to kauai, hi. through proper channels to give them another island habitat to thrive? I have family there and they would help.

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