Friday, February 17, 2012

The World's Smallest Chameleon Makes it Big!

If you make the rounds of nature blogs like I do, you will have a hard time missing the world's smallest chameleon today. Ever since Valentine's Day, when the latest research on Malagasy Leaf Chameleons, Brookesia Minima, published, these little guys have been causing a big sensation.

Why all the hype? Well, they are pretty cool itty bitty things. They do all the cool things other chameleons do, rapidly changing skin for chamoflage, long projectile tongues and rotating eyes for hunting. You know the drill. They can use their prehensile tail to grasp, but unlike other chameleons, this species often uses it as a fifth leg for stability due to their size. Still, this doesn't that big of a deal. So I went exploring, and I think  I've figured it out, though the cause of the sensation is not really what most of the blogs are talking about. Perhaps they didn't want to sound too nerdy? I don't mind. I'm a proud science nerd. Here is the scuttlebutt on these four species of tiny chameleons discovered in extreme northern regions of Madagascar.

According to research by Frank GlawJörn KöhlerTed M. TownsendMiguel Vences :

"Molecular phylogenetic analyses based on one mitochondrial and two nuclear genes of all nominal species in the B. minima group congruently support that the four new species, together with B. tuberculata from Montagne d'Ambre in northern Madagascar, form a strongly supported clade. This suggests that these species have diversified in geographical proximity in this small area."

These species, despite being superficially like other chameleons, have been given separate evolutionary status based on differences in their external morphology, mostly based on differences to the hemipenis structure. The new research is now suggesting they have evolved differently within their range for a reason. The new conclusions suggest that they represent "extreme cases of island dwarfism." 

Yep, this is cool stuff! And speaking of cool stuff, my second story posted today over at The Ravens Crossing. Go meet Sharon & Alex today. You have two more days to enter to WIN a FREE KINDLE Wifi Touch. Don't miss out!


Andi said...

That little guy is so cute!

Zooleft said...

Isn't he funny. I thought when I first saw them a while ago that the photos were cropped and it was a hoax. I was stoked to find out they weren't.