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article imageNew chameleon species discovered in Madagascar

By Tim Sandle     May 26, 2015 in Science
Madagascar, noted for its rich diversity of species, has revealed new secrets: eleven new species of reptile have been discovered on the island in recent years. These have been collated in a new science paper.
The reptile in question is the highly and brightly colorful panther chameolon. This creature was thought to be a single species. However, advances in genetics have revealed something more complex: there are actually eleven different species.
The panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) is around 20 inches long. The diversification between different specimens found out using sophisticated genetic methods. Researchers made multiple visits to the African island and sampled the blood of 324 different specimens. Photographs were also taken.
The output of the genetic testing was compared with the photographic evidence, and this process revealed the extent of biodiversity. The most interesting observation was that the dominant color expressed by different chameleons related to different geographical areas on the island.
For example, it was found that panther chameleons located at Nosy Be are a vibrant blue; those found at Antsiranana are red, green or orange; whereas, the species of Maroantsetra are a different shade of red. To add to this, there are different colorations between males and females. The color variation only applies to males. Females are tan and brown no matter where they are isolated from.
The new species, and others, are under threat. The researchers also comment on the extent of deforestation occurring on the island and the threat this poses to the chameleon.
The study was performed by Michel Milinkovitch of the University of Geneva (UNIGE). The findings have been published in the journal Molecular Ecology. The research paper is “Phylogeography and Support Vector Machine Classification of Colour Variation in Panther Chameleons.”
More about Chameleon, Madagascar, Reptile, Lizard
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