|Brookesia nana |
Glaw, Köhler, Hawlitschek, Ratsoavina, Rakotoarison, Scherz & Vences, 2021
Evolutionary reduction of adult body size (miniaturization) has profound consequences for organismal biology and is an important subject of evolutionary research. Based on two individuals we describe a new, extremely miniaturized chameleon, which may be the world’s smallest reptile species. The male holotype of Brookesia nana sp. nov. has a snout–vent length of 13.5 mm (total length 21.6 mm) and has large, apparently fully developed hemipenes, making it apparently the smallest mature male amniote ever recorded. The female paratype measures 19.2 mm snout–vent length (total length 28.9 mm) and a micro-CT scan revealed developing eggs in the body cavity, likewise indicating sexual maturity. The new chameleon is only known from a degraded montane rainforest in northern Madagascar and might be threatened by extinction. Molecular phylogenetic analyses place it as sister to B. karchei, the largest species in the clade of miniaturized Brookesia species, for which we resurrect Evoluticauda Angel, 1942 as subgenus name. The genetic divergence of B. nana sp. nov. is rather strong (9.9‒14.9% to all other Evoluticauda species in the 16S rRNA gene). A comparative study of genital length in Malagasy chameleons revealed a tendency for the smallest chameleons to have the relatively largest hemipenes, which might be a consequence of a reversed sexual size dimorphism with males substantially smaller than females in the smallest species. The miniaturized males may need larger hemipenes to enable a better mechanical fit with female genitals during copulation. Comprehensive studies of female genitalia are needed to test this hypothesis and to better understand the evolution of genitalia in reptiles.
|Brookesia nana sp. nov. in life. |
(A–C) male holotype (ZSM 1660/2012).
(D, E) female paratype (UADBA-R/FGZC 3752).
Order Squamata Oppel, 181115.
Family Chamaeleonidae Rafinesque, 181516.
Subfamily Brookesiinae Angel, 194217.
Genus Brookesia Gray, 186517.
Subgenus Evoluticauda Angel, 1942 (resurrected herein, justification below).
Brookesia nana sp. nov
Diagnosis: A diminutive chameleon species assigned to the genus Brookesia on the basis of its small body size, short tail, presence of rows of dorsolateral tubercles along vertebral column, presence of pelvic spine, and molecular phylogenetic relationships. Brookesia nana sp. nov. is distinguished by the following unique suite of morphological characters: (1) male SVL 13.5 mm, female SVL 19.2 mm; (2) male TL mm 21.6 mm, female TL 28.9 mm; (3) TaL/SVL ratio of 0.51 in male; (4) absence of lateral or dorsal spines on the tail; (5) absence of dorsal pelvic shield in sacral area; (6) presence of distinct pelvic spine; (7) pale brown dorsal colouration with slightly darker markings in life; (8) absence of apical spines on the hemipenis.
Etymology: The specific epithet is the Latin noun nana (meaning female dwarf) in the nominative singular.
Due to the old divergence and the morphological distinctness of the two clades we here suggest to consider them as different subgenera:
Subgenus Brookesia Gray, 1865 (large-bodied clade)
Type species: Chamaeleo superciliaris Kuhl, 1820.
Contents: Brookesia antakarana, B. bekolosy (attribution tentative), B. betschi, B. bonsi, B. brunoi, B. brygooi, B. decaryi, B. ebenaui, B. griveaudi, B. lambertoni, B. lineata, B. perarmata, B. stumpffi, B. superciliaris, B. therezieni, B. thieli, B. vadoni, B. valerieae.
Subgenus Evoluticauda Angel, 1942 (miniaturized clade, known as B. minima group)
Type species: Brookesia tuberculata Mocquard, 1894.
Contents: Brookesia confidens, B. dentata, B. desperata, B. exarmata, B. karchei, B. micra, B. minima, B. nana, B. peyrierasi, B. ramanantsoai, B. tedi, B. tristis, B. tuberculata.
Distribution: Northern half of Madagascar.
Frank Glaw, Jörn Köhler, Oliver Hawlitschek, Fanomezana M. Ratsoavina, Andolalao Rakotoarison, Mark D. Scherz and Miguel Vences. 2021. Extreme Miniaturization of A New Amniote Vertebrate and insights into the Evolution of Genital Size in Chameleons. Scientific Reports. 11, 2522. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-80955-1