Science

Scientists find chameleon that hasn't been seen in 100 years

Scientists say they have found an elusive chameleon species that was last spotted in Madagascar 100 years ago.

Several specimens of Voeltzkow's chameleon found by German expedition, including pregnant female

This photo, taken on Thursday, March 12, 2020, and provided by the Staatliche Naturwissenschftliche Sammlung Bayerns, shows a Voeltzkow's chameleon in Madagascar. The species was last spotted 100 years ago. (Frank Glaw/SNSB via AP)

Talk about good camouflage!

Scientists say they have found an elusive chameleon species that was last spotted in Madagascar 100 years ago.

Researchers from Madagascar and Germany said Friday that they discovered several living specimens of Voeltzkow's chameleon during an expedition to the northwest of the African island nation.

In a report published in the journal Salamandra, the team led by scientists from the Bavarian Natural History Collections ZSM said genetic analysis determined that the species is closely related to Labord's chameleon. 

Only lives during rainy season

Researchers believe that both reptiles only live during the rainy season — hatching from eggs, growing rapidly, sparring with rivals, mating and then dying during a few short months.

"These animals are basically the mayflies among vertebrates," said Frank Glaw, curator for reptiles and amphibians at the ZSM.

Researchers said the female of the species, which had never previously been documented, displayed particularly colourful patterns during pregnancy, when encountering males and when stressed.

The scientists say that the Voeltzkow's chameleon's habitat is under threat from deforestation.

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