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<p>”We discovered it in the mountains of northern of Madagascar,” Frank Glaw, curator of herpetology at the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology, told AFP in an interview.</p><p>A joint expedition in 2012 of German and Malagasy scientists did not know whether the two specimens collected — one female and one male — were adults until much later, he explained.</p><p>”We found out that the female had eggs in her body, and that the male had large genitals, so it was clear that they were adults.”</p><p>Exceptionally large genitals, it turned out, accounting for nearly 20 percent of its body size, Glaw and colleagues reported in the journal Scientific Reports.</p><p>The male’s body — about the size of a peanut — was 13.5 millimetres long (half an inch), with the tail adding another nine millimetres.</p><p>By contrast, the female measured 29 mm from its nose to the tip of its tail.</p><p>The pair remain the only specimens of the species ever found.</p><p>Islands connected long ago to neighbouring continents are known for miniaturised versions of animals that crossed ephemeral land bridges, a phenomenon known as “island dwarfism”.</p><p>”There are numerous extremely miniaturised vertebrates in Madagascar, including the smallest primates and some of the smallest frogs in the world,” said co-author Andolalao Rakotoarison of the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar.</p><p>But the “island effect” does not apply to B. nana, which lives exclusively in mountainous regions some 1,300 metres (4,200 feet) above sea level, the researchers concluded.</p><p>- ‘Biodiversity hotspot’ -</p><p>”We have no good explanation as to why this species is so small,” said Glaw.</p><p>What scientists do know is that the diminutive reptiles are likely teetering on the edge of extinction, even if the International Union for the Conservation for Nature (IUCN) — keepers of the Red List of threatened species — has yet to do an assessment.</p><p>”Habitat destruction is the biggest threat to the amphibians and reptiles of Madagascar,” said Glaw.</p><p>”Maybe in the future it will be climate change, but for now it is deforestation.”</p><p>Since the mid-20th century, Madagascar has lost about 45 percent of its forest cover.</p><p>B. nana and another mini-chameleon discovered by Glaw and his colleagues on a small island off the coast of Madagascar are especially vulnerable because their range is so small.</p><p>Brookesia micra lives on less than two square kilometres,” Glaw explained.</p><p>”One big catastrophic event — a forest fire — and the population might be lost very quickly.”</p><p>Madagascar in a global “biodiversity hotspot”, accounting for five percent of the world’s unique plant and animal species.</p><p>The island nation has one of the highest rates of poverty in the world, and lacks resources for conservation and natural resource management.</p><p>© 2021 AFP</p>

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