New Chameleon Species Discovered

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Meet Kinyongia magomberae (the

Magombera chameleon), a new species of chameleon just found in Tanzania, East Africa.

(Credit: Andrew Marshall, University of York)

Its discovery was a happy coincidence, although not for one chameleon. Project leader Andrew Marshall, from the University of York's Environment Department, was on a monkey survey in the Magombera Forest when he happened to disturb a twig snake. In the twig snake's mouth? A Magombera chameleon.

A few members of Marshall's team searched for additional similar chameleons and found at least two others. Comparison tests with other known species proved the distinctiveness of the new find.

Chameleons are a specialized type of lizard with parrot-like feet, stereoscopic eyes, flicking tongues, a characteristic swagger, dinosaur-like crests or horns and, most memorable of all, the ability that some chameleons have to change color. The new species adds to the chameleon tally, so there are now about 161 known members of the clade.

Marshall said, "Discovering a new species is a rare event, so to be involved in the identification and naming of this animal is very exciting."

He added, "Chameleon species tend to be focused in small areas and, unfortunately, the habitat this one depends on, the Magombera Forest, is under threat. Hopefully this discovery will support efforts to provide this area and others like it with greater protection."

A paper on the new chameleon is published in volume 58(2) of the African Journal of Herpetology. You can also read more about chameleons here.

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