The smallest chameleon of the Earth

Internationaler Chamäleontag

The world’s smallest chameleon is also the world’s smallest amniote. It is called Brookesia nana – Nano chameleon – and was only discovered in 2021. Given its size, this is hardly surprising – it is only 22 mm long! The male is even a little smaller than the female, which at 29 mm in total length is no giant either. Its home is the island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, more precisely in the Sorata Massif in northern Madagascar. It lives in layers of foliage at the foot of large trees. There is another exciting feature: in relation to its body size, the male of this species has incredibly large hemipenes! Yes, chameleons have two penes instead of a single penis – handy if one breaks. But in the nano chameleon, the hemipenes make up 18.5% of the total body length. In humans, that would be the same as if the penis of a 1.80 metre tall man were 33 cm long.

But back to the nano chameleon itself. Despite its tiny size, like many other chameleon species it reproduces by laying eggs in the foliage. These hatch into even tinier young, which feed on the smallest micro-insects on the ground. Overall, however, the tiny creatures are likely to have a relatively hard time in the rainforest, as even any spider is bigger than them and certainly sees a small chameleon as a welcome change on the menu, but in fact the main threat to the small chameleons is humans. The nano-chameleon was probably already threatened with extinction before it was discovered.

The discovery was a pretty big deal at the time. It was reported everywhere, for example in Die Welt, auf National Geographic, bei Scinexx, im GoodNews Magazin oder bei der Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. You can download the original publication for free here. And what we still don’t know: Is there perhaps even a smaller chameleon? After Brookesia minima, Brookesia micra and Brookesia nana, the only thing missing is Brookesia pika. Madagascar has already had a few surprises in store… maybe this one too?

#show your colours #internationalchameleonday #chameleonday #chameleondayMay9 #agchamaeleons


Video: EndangeREX, Timon Glaw