I’m not usually a sucker for reptiles and amphibians the way I am for, say, sloths — but when they’re the world’s tiniest, who can resist? First we had this ickle mini frogling, and now there’s a wee precious chameleonette.
Actually, there were four distinct species of ittle-bitty chameleons discovered in Madagascar, all members of the generally miniature genus Brookesia, and all less than two inches long. Members of the smallest species, Brookesia micra, reach a maximum adult length of about an inch (the weeniest specimens were less than two-thirds of an inch, and that’s probably one of them up there, unless that dude’s fingers are huge).
These aren’t exactly going to knock the tiniest frog off its miniature throne as smallest vertebrate in the world — they may not even be the smallest reptiles. But they’re pretty tiny, and their habitat is tiny too; B. micra is found only on a single one-square-mile island. That means they’re unusually vulnerable to the usual ecological ills.
“The extreme miniaturization of these dwarf reptiles might be accompanied by numerous specializations of the body plan, and this constitutes a promising field for future research,” said herpetologist Frank Glaw, lead author of the study, in a press release. “But most urgent is to focus conservation efforts on these and other microendemic species in Madagascar which are heavily threatened by deforestation.”