Scientists Rediscover Elusive Chameleon Last Seen 100 Years Ago in Madagascar

November 2, 2020 Updated: November 2, 2020

Scientists say they have found an elusive chameleon species that was last spotted in Madagascar 100 years ago.

Researchers from Madagascar and Germany said on Friday that they discovered several living specimens of Voeltzkow’s chameleon during an expedition to the northwest of the African island nation.

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A female Voeltzkow chameleon spotted in Madagascar on April 1, 2018. (SNSB/Frank Glaw via AP)

In a report published in the journal Salamandra, the team, led by scientists from the Bavarian Natural History Collections ZSM, said genetic analysis determined that the species is closely related to Labord’s chameleon.

Researchers believe that both reptiles only live during the rainy season—hatching from eggs, growing rapidly, sparring with rivals, mating, and then dying during a few short months.

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A Voeltzkow chameleon in Madagascar. (SNSB/Frank Glaw via AP)

“These animals are basically the mayflies among vertebrates,” said Frank Glaw, curator for reptiles and amphibians at the ZSM.

Researchers said the female of the species, which had never previously been documented, displayed particularly colorful patterns during pregnancy, when encountering males, and when stressed.

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A male Voeltzkow chameleon spotted in Madagascar on March 31, 2018. (SNSB/Kathrin Glaw via AP)

The scientists say that the Voeltzkow’s chameleon’s habitat is under threat from deforestation.