World's Smallest Chameleon
The World's Smallest Chameleon, the Brookesia micra, is now also one of the world's smallest reptiles at only 3cm (29mm) long. The tiny creature is small enough to perch on top of a fingernail, and as long at the very tip of a matchstick. The chameleon was discovered on the island of Madagascar, German and American biologists announced on Feb. 16, 2012. The lizard, with a 16-millimetre body, measures 29 millimetres with its tail full extended. REUTERS

A research team from the San Diego State University has apparently discovered the world's smallest chameleon... a discovery that will almost certainly shed more light on this mysterious species. The mini-chameleon, which is only 3cm (29mm) long, is the smallest found so far!

The animal belongs to a species called Brookesia Micra and is active during the day. It was discovered some four weeks back, on a small islet off the coast of Madagascar. According to a report in the Mirror, this mini-creature is now believed to be one of the smallest reptiles in the world.

The research team's findings appeared in the Feb. 14 issue of PLoS ONE.

Incidentally, the smallest reptile in the world is the Jaragua Sphaero (the dwarf gecko), which measures an almost invisible 16mm!

The researchers, predictably, had to put in a lot of effort to find the lizards. Fortunately, the fact that they become almost comatose during the night made it easier. Otherwise the prospect of having to hunt around for an animal your little toe could crush is just too painful to contemplate.

"They are sleeping and you can just pick them up. It's like picking a strawberry, so it's easy. They do not move at all at night," Frank Glaw, the team's lead researcher, was quoted as saying in a Yahoo news report.

"Their size suggests that chameleons might have evolved in Madagascar from small and inconspicuous ancestors, quite unlike the larger and more colourful chameleons most familiar to us today," Ted Townsend, who carried out genetic testing on the new species, was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

Tragically however, the researches confirmed that the Brookesia species (there were a total of four such miniature chameleons discovered) tend to live within a highly restricted range.

In fact, approxiamtely half the members of this genus are found only in a single location. The B.micra, worse still, lives only on a small island called Nosy Hara. The scientists explained that such scenarios were common in island population. This is known as "island dwarfism" and usually occurs due to limited resources and the pressure to reproduce faster. Finally, the researchers also added that all four species discovered were highly susceptible to habitat destruction.