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Tiny Chameleon Discovered With 'Surprisingly' Large Genitals

Tiny Chameleon Discovered With 'Surprisingly' Large Genitals

The lizard's genitals account for more than 18 percent of its body

Claire Reid

Claire Reid

The world's smallest chameleon has been discovered and he's hiding a big secret...

The teeny Brookesia nana or B. nana for short, is just 21.6 mm long but their genitals, when flexed, account for around 18.5 percent of their body size - which might be why they've been given the nickname B. nana.

Usually the lizard's genitals will remain sheathed and concealed but when he's in the mood it quickly grows in size.

Scientific Reports

A new study about the animal was published in the journal Scientific Reports earlier this week.

Due to its size and ability to camouflage, the chameleon has managed to evade scientists until recently with the study's co-author Dr Mark D Scherz telling IFLScience: "It takes a lot of patience and an eye for it.

"With practice, one can get relatively good at it, but we often work with local guides who are particular experts in finding these tiny chameleons as well."

With the lizard found, researchers began to study them and it was here they found that the genitals or hemipenes were 'surprisingly large' on males.

It's not really known why the lizards have such big bits, but it's thought it may be due to the females being larger in size than the males - measuring 28.9 mm in length.

Posting on Twitter Scherz wrote: "We know that Brookesia species have substantial sexual size dimorphism, with the males much smaller than females.

"The male in fact rides around on the female's back until she is ready to mate.

"So it makes sense that their genitals are limited in ways their bodies aren't."

However, the B. nana doesn't have the chameleon genital/body ration record - that title goes to its close relative the Brookesia tuberculata.

Scientific Reports

These little guys are around 20mm in length with hemipenes making up around 30 percent of a male's body size.

The new lizards were found in Madagascar, with Scherz telling IFLScience: "We are constantly identifying new species from Madagascar and describing them.

"Even among the beautiful and charismatic chameleons, there is a huge amount that we still have to learn.

"Meanwhile, we are also working to understand the evolutionary processes that have given rise to Madagascar's incredible diversity, and the threats that diversity is facing."

Featured Image Credit: Scientific Reports

Topics: Weird, Animals