At only 13.5 mm long, it is the smallest male reptile ever: the tiny chameleon species Brookesia nana was discovered in Madagascar. Fine detail: She has particularly large genitals. And for good reason.
Munich (dpa) – An international team of researchers has discovered a small new species of chameleon in Madagascar. The body length of a young male is just 13.5 mm, the Munich Zoology Group announced for publication in the journal Scientific Reports.
It is the smallest known male among the approximately 11,500 reptile species, explained first author of the study in Munich, Frank Glau of the State Group. At the same time, smaller species of chameleon tend to have the largest genitals relative to body size – so-called hemipenes – as comparison with 51 other species of chameleon showed. The female is 19 mm long, and is larger than the male. Despite great efforts, no more samples of the new species could be found.
One explanation for the very large genitals of a male chameleon, at 18.5% of the body length, could be the size difference between the sexes, the study said. In the largest species of chameleon, the males are usually much larger than the females, and in the smaller species it is the exact opposite.
“Accordingly, very young males will need relatively larger reproductive organs to enable successful mating with significantly larger females,” explained Miguel Vensis of the Technical University of Braunschweig.
The new species was discovered during a German Malagasy expedition in the north of the island called Brookesia nana. The distribution areas of most dwarf chameleons are very small and sometimes cover only a few square kilometers.
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