This Mysterious Chameleon May Be Smallest Reptile on Earth - Nerdist
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This Mysterious Chameleon May Be Smallest Reptile on Earth

In a newly published study in the journal Scientific Reports, a team of researchers has outlined the existence of an “extremely miniaturized” chameleon species, which may in fact be the smallest reptile in the world. The extremely tiny chameleons, at roughly .86 inches long, are the length of a fingertip. Although, oddly enough, the males are endowed with exceptionally large genitals. (Proportionally, of course.)

In the study, which comes via Science News, the scientists describe the new species, which they have named Brookesia nana or B. nana. Nana is a Latin epithet for “female dwarf,” and is also the origin of the word nano.

Scientists say this newly discovered chameleon species, dubbed B. nana, may be the smallest reptile in the world.

Frank Glaw

The scientists discovered the minuscule reptile in the rainforests of northern Madagascar, where the nano-lizard lives alongside at least 13 other species of chameleon. In fact, Madagascar is home to two-thirds of the world’s chameleon species, and may be the creatures’ original birthplace.

“We are constantly identifying new species from Madagascar and describing them,” study co-author Mark Scherz told IFL Science. “Even among the beautiful and charismatic chameleons, there is a huge amount that we still have to learn,” he added.

Scientists say this newly discovered chameleon species, dubbed B. nana, may be the smallest reptile in the world.

Frank Glaw

As for B. nana, there is undoubtedly a lot of fascinating data to collect. Despite the fact the scientists only have two specimens right now, luckily, they’re a male and female. Which not only gives them insight into the dimorphism of the species, but also the males’ astonishingly long hemipenes.

Those hemipenes—that is, penises that retract inside of the body—are 20% the length of the little lizards’ entire bodies. And it may be the case that as the males grow smaller and smaller, their hemipenes continually grow larger, proportionally. “The miniaturized males may need larger hemipenes to enable a better mechanical fit with female genitals during copulation,” the study says.

Scientists say this newly discovered chameleon species, dubbed B. nana, may be the smallest reptile in the world.

Frank Glaw

As for the takeaways from this discovery, the scientists say these findings will give them a better sense of Madagascar’s biodiversity. As well as the threats that that biodiversity now faces. Plus, the discovery’s a good reminder that some of the smallest creatures pack the biggest surprises.

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