Nav: Home

Biodiversity: All the colors of the rainbow

April 11, 2018

The diversity of Madagascar is unique. More than 420 reptile species are already known from this enormous island off the east coast of Madagascar, yet rainforested mountains across the island continue to yield new surprises: On an expedition carried out by the Zoologische Staatssammlung Munich in a remote area of northern Madagascar, a team of researchers has discovered a spectacularly coloured rainbow chameleon, now dubbed Calumma uetzi. The gorgeous display colouration of the new species, which makes it easily distinguishable from all other species, is at its most magnificent when individuals of both sexes encounter one another. Then, the male tries to impress the female with a raucous display of yellow, violet, and red. Yet these flashy colours alone are no guarantee of success; an unreceptive female will turn on a male, mouth agape, darkening her own skin to the point of nearly black.

While the new rainbow chameleon is found only in the relatively remote forests of the north of Madagascar, a second new species was discovered in a dwindling forest fragment just beside one of the island's most heavily travelled roads. This totally isolated forest fragment, which covers an area of scarcely 15 hectares, is the only known forest in which Calumma juliae occurs. "We hope," says David Prötzel, a PhD student at LMU and lead author of the new study, "that this area can be protected as soon as possible. Recent imagery from Google Earth shows that, since our discovery of this chameleon just two years ago, a significant area of its tiny home has already been lost to deforestation." Despite repeated visits by the researchers to the forest where this species is at home, only females have yet been found. "It will be really interesting to see what the males look like, and at what time of the year they can be found," says Prötzel.

Only a single, male specimen of the third species described in the new study, Calumma lefona, is known. X-ray micro-CT scanning of the head of this specimen revealed a large hole in the roof of the skull, lying directly over the brain. A systematic search among the related chameleons revealed that a hole is present in this position in at least six other Calumma species. Curiously, the species with these holes all occur at elevations of more than 1000 m above sea level. The biological function of this skeletal anomaly is something of a mystery, but the researchers think it may help in thermoregulation.

"Based on everything we know about these species, they all have very small distribution ranges," says Dr. Frank Glaw, who heads the Herpetology Section of the Zoologische Staatssammlung München, "but many new protected areas are now being established in Madagascar, which will certainly be important for the future of Madagascar's unique diversity." (ZSM/LMU) Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 2018
-end-


Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

Related Chameleon Articles:

UTEP doctoral student discovers 3 chameleon species
University of Texas at El Paso doctoral candidate Daniel Hughes has discovered three new species of chameleons.
Bird feathers inspire researchers to produce vibrant new colors
Nagoya University team replicates unique color of bird plumage. Raspberry-like particle systems simulate the spongy texture of Stellar's jay's blue feathers.
IRCM research team discovers how immunotherapy can fight some cancers
Dr. André Veillette and his team have discovered why immunotherapy would work in some patients and not at all in others.
Researchers quantify in high speed a viper's strike in nature for the first time
The antagonistic predator-prey relationship is of interest to evolutionary biologists because it often leads to extreme adaptations in both the predator and prey.
Metamaterial device allows chameleon-like behavior in the infrared
An electric current will not only heat a hybrid metamaterial, but will also trigger it to change state and fade into the background like a chameleon in what may be the proof-of-concept of the first controllable metamaterial device, or metadevice, according to a team of engineers.
200-million-year-old reptile had unusual, anteater-like forelimbs
A chameleon-like reptile that lived some 200 million years ago had an incredibly unique forelimb apparently adapted for digging, according to a report published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on Sept.
UTEP researchers innovate brain preservation technique
By figuring out how to preserve specimens in the remote locations in which they are found -- locations almost completely opposite those of a controlled laboratory or 21st century urban area -- researchers from The University of Texas at El Paso have given science one more way to study a wide range of creatures, particularly those threatened by global climate change.
Selfish mitochondria implicated in a variety of diseases
A Vanderbilt research team has identified some of the methods that allow mutant mitochondrial DNA to act selfishly by circumventing the molecular mechanisms that cells use to regulate mitochondrial activity.
How chameleons capture their prey
The mucus secreted at the tip of a chameleon's tongue has a viscosity 400 times larger than the one of human saliva.
New lizard found in Dominican Republic
A University of Toronto-led team has reported the discovery of a new lizard in the Dominican Republic, strengthening a long-held theory that communities of lizards can evolve almost identically on separate islands.

Related Chameleon Reading:

Chameleons Are Cool: Read and Wonder
by Martin Jenkins (Author), Sue Shields (Illustrator)

The Mixed-Up Chameleon Board Book
by Eric Carle (Author), Eric Carle (Illustrator)

The Chameleon: Life-Changing Wisdom for Anyone Who has a Personality or Knows Someone Who Does
by Merrick Rosenberg (Author)

Chameleons: Care and Breeding of Jackson's, Panther, Veiled, and Parson's (Herpetocultural Library)
by Gary Ferguson (Author), Kenneth Kalisch (Author), Sean McKeown (Author)

Chameleon Handbook (Barron's Pet Handbooks)
by Francois Le Berre (Author)

Chameleons (Amazing Animals)
by Valerie Bodden (Author)

Chameleon, Chameleon
by Joy Cowley (Author), Nic Bishop (Photographer)

Chameleon
by Kelly Oram (Author)

Chameleon in a Candy Store (The Oxygen Thief Diaries)
by Anonymous (Author)

Chameleon's Colors
by Chisato Tashiro (Author), Marianne Martens (Translator)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Why We Hate
From bullying to hate crimes, cruelty is all around us. So what makes us hate? And is it learned or innate? This hour, TED speakers explore the causes and consequences of hate — and how we can fight it. Guests include reformed white nationalist Christian Picciolini, CNN commentator Sally Kohn, podcast host Dylan Marron, and writer Anand Giridharadas.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#482 Body Builders
This week we explore how science and technology can help us walk when we've lost our legs, see when we've gone blind, explore unfriendly environments, and maybe even make our bodies better, stronger, and faster than ever before. We speak to Adam Piore, author of the book "The Body Builders: Inside the Science of the Engineered Human", about the increasingly amazing ways bioengineering is being used to reverse engineer, rebuild, and augment human beings. And we speak with Ken Thomas, spacesuit engineer and author of the book "The Journey to Moonwalking: The People That Enabled Footprints on the Moon" about...