Chameleon showing rainbow display colours

A male of the chameleon species Calumma uetzi flaunts bright colours to attract a female. Credit: Frank Glaw (ZSM/LMU)

Conservation biology

Newfound chameleon species flashes rainbow colours and a nose like Pinocchio’s

Resplendent reptile and two similar species have been discovered in the remote forests of Madagascar.

A paradise of biodiversity, Madagascar is home to more than 80 chameleon species. Now, David Prötzel at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich in Germany and his colleagues have identified three new species by scrutinizing the genitals, genes and other traits of dozens of chameleon specimens.

All are tiny and have bulbous “rostral appendages” on their faces that make them look like reptilian Pinocchios. Calumma uetzi is around 10 centimetres from tip to tail and is named for Peter Uetz, who runs an indispensible reptile database. The males display vivid shades of ochre, lavender, scarlet and turquoise.

Calumma lefona, which has a pointed rostral bulb, draws its name from the word for spear in Madagascar’s primary language. And Calumma juliae is named for Julia Forster, who helped to collect some of the specimens. The species has been found so far only in a 0.15-square kilometre patch of forest, which the authors say should be immediately protected.