A new rival for the world’s smallest reptile has been discovered by a group of researchers in Northern Madagascar. Four new species were discovered on a number of small, isolated islands with Brookesia micra achieving the record for the tiniest living reptile discovered to date. These lizards are just tens of millimeters in length, and some are small enough to fit on the head of a matchstick.
An introduction to the research states: “Extremes in nature such as gigantism and dwarfism in organisms attract considerable attention from the general public, but also allow biologists to gain general insights into morphological and ecological constraints. While the largest animals are generally well known, miniaturized species often go undetected, and striking new discoveries of dwarf species are not uncommon.”
This sort of extreme dwarfism typically only occurs in small environments such as the isolated islands in which these chameleons have been discovered. Smaller animals need fewer resources and smaller territories, and they typically survive for longer periods of time than species that require more food for their survival. A lack of predatory competition due to this small environment allows for these species to reproduce quickly and flourish, needing not to evolve larger bodies in order to ensure survival.
The full report and analysis can be read in its entirety at PLos One.