Scientists Discover Three New Species of Chameleons

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An international team of herpetologists from Germany and Madagascar has discovered and described three new species of chameleons from the Calumma nasutum species group.

Calumma emelinae. Image credit: Prötzel et al, doi: 10.26049/VZ70-1-2020-3.

Calumma emelinae. Image credit: Prötzel et al, doi: 10.26049/VZ70-1-2020-3.

“Madagascar is a paradise for nature lovers, since most of the land vertebrate species are only found on this large island off the east coast of Africa,” said senior author Dr. Frank Glaw, curator for amphibians and reptiles at the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology and colleagues.

“The endemic lemurs and chameleons are of particular interest and biologists have been investigating these groups of animals intensively since the 19th century.”

“However, the taxonomy of many species is still unclear, as in the case of one of the first ever chameleon species from Madagascar, the flap-nosed chameleon (Calumma nasutum), which was described in 1836 by French zoologists André Marie Constant Duméril and Gabriel Bibron.”

In a new study, Dr. Glaw and co-authors revised the taxonomy of the chameleons from the Calumma nasutum group using a variety of methods, including micro-computed tomography and DNA analysis.

“Without the use of the different methods and the intensive field work this species complex would certainly not have been clarified yet,” Dr. Glaw said.

“Only the combination of the different datasets has led to a significantly better understanding of the chameleon group.”

Calumma tjiasmantoi. Image credit: Prötzel et al, doi: 10.26049/VZ70-1-2020-3.

Calumma tjiasmantoi. Image credit: Prötzel et al, doi: 10.26049/VZ70-1-2020-3.

The team’s analysis confirmed that Calumma nasutum is a complex of several species and revealed three new species: Calumma emelinae, C. tjiasmantoi and C. ratnasariae.

Calumma emelinae is known in eastern Madagascar from Anosibe An’Ala to Angozongahy (Makira) about 500 km further north, from an elevation of 750-1,030 m.

Calumma tjiasmantoi can be found in eastern Madagascar from Andohahela in the south to Ranomafana NP about 400 km further north, from an elevation of 267 to 983 m.

Calumma ratnasariae is only known from the Bealanana District of northern Madagascar. It is distributed from Analabe Forest in the south to Andrevorevo, about 20 km further north, from an elevation of 1,337-1,717 m.

Calumma ratnasariae. Image credit: Prötzel et al, doi: 10.26049/VZ70-1-2020-3.

Calumma ratnasariae. Image credit: Prötzel et al, doi: 10.26049/VZ70-1-2020-3.

The authors also revalidated a chameleon species called Calumma radamanus, which lives at low elevations in eastern Madagascar from Tampolo (south) to its type locality Ambatondradama (north).

“By revising the taxonomy of the entire Calumma nasutum group, not only the protection status of the new species but also that of the already known species has to be re-evaluated,” said lead author Dr. David Prötzel, a researcher at the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology.

“Numerous species are probably endangered and depend on the protection of their habitats.”

The study was published in the journal Vertebrate Zoology.

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D. Prötzel et al. 2019. Untangling the trees: Revision of the Calumma nasutum complex (Squamata: Chamaeleonidae). Vertebrate Zoology 70 (1): 23-59; doi: 10.26049/VZ70-1-2020-3

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