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SDSU Biologist Researches One Of World’s Tiniest Lizards

Aired 2/16/12 on KPBS News.

A San Diego State University biologist is part of a team of scientists researching the recent discovery of one of the world's tiniest lizards, which were found on an island off Madagascar.

The species of chameleon is one of the world's tiniest lizards, found on an island off Madagascar.
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Above: The species of chameleon is one of the world's tiniest lizards, found on an island off Madagascar.

A San Diego State University biologist is part of a team of scientists researching the recent discovery of one of the world's tiniest lizards, which were found on an island off Madagascar.

The species of chameleon is small enough to sit on top of your fingernail and rivals the world's smallest reptiles. Adult males only grow to be half-an-inch from top to bottom.

SDSU biologist Ted Townsend analyzed the creatures’ DNA. He said the chameleon lives up to its chameleon name.

"You would never notice them because they are totally cryptic,” he said. “They have this habit of freezing and falling—that actually is what catches your eye as you're walking, if you're looking. You see some tiny little movements as it falls into the leaves then you go over and dig through the leaf litter and its just there smaller than a cricket."

Scientists don't know why they're so small.

The researchers also announced the discovery of three additional tiny chameleon species. Townsend said the chameleons are rare, but there could be smaller ones out there.

"I think there is still more of these things to discover for sure,” he said. “There might be some more of those on the mainland, that's a main question for us. But for some reason they don't move around much and that's probably related to their small size."

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