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New Chameleon With Blue Spots Found In Tanzania's Mountains

Jan 29, 2016 09:20 AM EST
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A new chameleon species scattered with blue spots was recently discovered in the mountains of Tanzania. Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) say this species, subsequently dubbed Kinyongia msuyae, highlights the richness of this biologically important region.

This brown and green chameleon lizard was discovered in four montane forest patches in the Udzungwa Mountains and Southern Highlands, researchers report in their study.

This find ultimately sheds light on a region known as the Makambako Gap, a supposed zoological barrier between the distinct faunas of the Southern Highlands and Eastern Arc Mountains - which is in the Udzungwa Mountains. It follows then the presence of this species suggests there are actually close biological affinities between species of the Southern Highlands.

The discovery of Kinyongia msuyae follows a series of other recent discoveries, demonstrating that Tanzania's Southern Highlands has emerged as somewhat of a hotspot for new species.

For instance, in 2003 WCS researchers stumbled upon the kipunji - a species of primate that turned out to be an entirely new genus - which was a first for Africa since 1923. And in 2012, the WCS found Matilda's horned viper, a new variety of snake.

"Along with our discoveries of the Kipunji, Matilda's horned viper and other reptiles and frogs, this new chameleon really seals the deal as regards the boundary of the Eastern Arcs," Tim Davenport, Director of WCS's Tanzania Program and co-discoverer of the new chameleon, said in a news release. "It is very clear now that the so-called Makambako Gap doesn't exist zoologically, and that the Southern Highlands is every bit as biodiverse and endemic-rich as all other Eastern Arc Mountains. With its own unique fauna and flora the region thus warrants as much protection as we can possibly afford it."

Kinyongia msuyae was named after Charles A. Msuya, a pioneer of Tanzanian herpetology who collected the first known specimen attributable to this species and has spent most of his life studying Tanzania's reptiles and amphibians. 

Their study was recently published in the journal Acta Herpetologica

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