Master of Camouflage: Scientists Find Chameleon Last Seen 100 Years Ago


The camouflage of this chameleon is so good, it hasn’t been spotted in 100 years. Until now.

This photo taken on Thursday, March 12, 2020 shows a Voeltzkow’s Chameleon in Madagascar. Scientists say they have found an elusive chameleon species that was last spotted in Madagascar 100 years ago. Image credit: SNSB/Frank Glaw

Scientists from Madagascar and Germany announced that they discovered several living specimens of Voeltzkow’s chameleon during an expedition to the northwest of the African island nation.

Watch the first takes of the lost chameleon species in this video.

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.

Labord’s chameleon (Furcifer labordi) is a semelparous species of chameleon also endemic to Madagascar. It lives for only about 4 to 5 months, making it the shortest lifespan ever recorded for a four-legged vertebrate. And the Voeltzkow’s chameleon is hardly different in that respect.

Image credit: SNSB/Frank Glaw

Scientists 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.

Image credit: SNSB/Frank Glaw

According to the researcher team, the female of the species – which had never previously been documented – displayed particularly colorful patterns during pregnancy, when encountering males and feeling stressed.

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

Image credit: SNSB Kathrin Glaw

And from deforestation, not even the best camouflage can hide.

Sources: 1, 2, 3

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