THREE NEW RAIN­BOW CHAMELEON SPECIES DIS­COV­ERED

Focus-Science and Technology - - DISCOVERIES -

More than 420 rep­tile species live in the moun­tains of Mada­gas­car, but an ex­pe­di­tion car­ried out by re­searchers from the Zool­o­gis­che Staatssamm­lung in Mu­nich has yielded a sur­prise: three new brightly coloured species of chameleon.

The rain­bow-hued Calumma uetzi was found in the re­mote moun­tains on north­ern Mada­gas­car and is at its most im­pres­sive when try­ing to at­tract a mate. The males turn a flashy shade of yel­low, streaked with vi­o­let and red, and if the fe­male is unim­pressed, she’ll darken her own skin to al­most black.

Fe­males from an­other new species, Calumma ju­liae, were found in a threat­ened 15-hectare for­est frag­ment be­side one of the is­land’s main roads.

“We hope that this area can be pro­tected as soon as pos­si­ble,” said re­searcher David Prötzel. “Re­cent im­agery from Google Earth shows that, since our discovery of this chameleon just two years ago, a sig­nif­i­cant area of its tiny home has al­ready been lost to de­for­esta­tion.”

The third species is called Calumma le­fona, and so far, only a sin­gle male has been found. Through X-ray scan­ning, the re­searchers found a large hole in the roof of its skull, di­rectly over the brain. A sim­i­lar hole has been seen in six other chameleon species, all of which live more than 1,000m above sea level. Re­searchers aren’t sure ex­actly what the hole is for, but they think it might help the chameleon reg­u­late its tem­per­a­ture.

“Based on every­thing we know about these species, they all have very small dis­tri­bu­tion ranges,” said Dr Frank Glaw, head of the in­sti­tute’s Her­petol­ogy Sec­tion. “But many new pro­tected ar­eas are now be­ing es­tab­lished in Mada­gas­car, which will cer­tainly be im­por­tant for the fu­ture of Mada­gas­car’s unique di­ver­sity.”

“THE MALES TURN A FLASHY SHADE OF YEL­LOW, STREAKED WITH VI­O­LET AND RED”

Calum­mauetzi is one of three new species of chameleon dis­cov­ered in Mada­gas­car

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