Mar 30

Researchers in Madagascar have discovered the world’s smallest species of reptile, a tiny chameleon, Brookesia micra, that reaches just 29 millimetres in length.

Brookesia micra image

Juvenile Brookesia micra on finger

Miniature chameleons

While people may be familiar with the appearance of a chameleon, with its slightly comical jerking gait and rotating eyes, to see these features in such miniature proportions is extraordinary. A research team of German scientists discovered Brookesia micra, along with three other new species while conducting field work at night in the forests of Madagascar.

They mostly live in the leaf litter in the day… But at night they climb up and then you can spot them,” said Dr Glaw.

The tiny reptiles were spotted using torches and headlamps shone into likely roosting places.

Brookesia tristis image

Another new species, Brookesia tristis, on a leaf

Brookesia confidens image

Brookesia confidens on hand

Brookesia micra, the smallest of the newly discovered species, was discovered on a remote limestone islet where its small size is believed to have evolved as an adaptation to its restricted habitat. Genetic testing has not only proven that these tiny chameleons are indeed four separate species, but that they separated from each other millions of years ago. 

Brookesia desperata image

Brookesia desperata

Brookesia desperate image

Female Brookesia desperata with eggs

Conservation concern

As the newly discovered chameleons inhabit such small ranges, they are extremely vulnerable to habitat disturbance. The names given to the new species reflect their precarious position, with Brookesia desperata, named for the desperate loss of habitat currently facing the species, and Brookesia tristis named after the French for ‘sad’, due to the proximity of its forest habitat to a rapidly expanding city.

Read about the discovery on BBC Nature.

View all Brookesia species on ARKive.

Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author

  • Catherine (April 12th, 2012 at 5:33 am):

    Such wonderful new tiny creatures! Just goes to show–all creatures big and small! makes me wonder how many more wild treasures out there that havent been discovered yet! and no wonder they hide so well….just look at the things man has done to SO many of natures’ wonders