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A super-tiny chameleon: Leaf chameleon


Scientific classification: Brookesia tristis

It is one of the smallest reptiles in the world and was first described as anew speciesin 2012, and is known from just one small area in northernMadagascar.

Brookesia includes species considered to be the world’s smallest chameleons, and also among the smallest reptiles. In 2002, all 30 Brookesia species were added to Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), with one species being added to Appendix I.

This listing means that any international trade in these tiny chameleons should be carefully controlled. Brookesi tristis was named after the French word “triste” meaning sad to provoke thought regarding the threatened habitat of Madagascar’s microendemic species.

Like other Brookesia chameleons, Brookesia tristis uses its tail like a ‘fifth leg’ when walking. Brookesia tristis is typically a dull brown to beige colour, with faint brown bars that radiate from the eyes to the sides of the head. When stressed, this species may develop a light grey stripe along its back.

Adult female Brookesia tristis can be distinguished from the adult male by its larger size and by the narrower base to its tail. The chameleons inhabit leaf litter during the day, but move up into the trees at night to sleep. This species’ body is covered in small spines, and there are slight crests on its head.

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