Dwarf chameleon (Brookesia exarmata)

GenusBrookesia (1)
SizeTotal length: 45 mm (2)
Tail length: 20 mm (2)
Weight0.5 g (2)

The dwarf chameleon is listed on Appendix II of CITES (1).

The dwarf chameleon (Brookesia exarmata), only described to science in 1996 (3), is one of the smallest of the diminutive Malagasy leaf chameleons (Brookesia species) (2), which makes it one of the smallest reptiles in the world (4). Its body is rather cylindrical, with a small, flat and relatively narrow head, and a short and slender snout. The skin, in shades of brown and beige, enables this chameleon to blend into the leaf litter, and occasionally a lichen-like or striped pattern is present, providing even more effective camouflage (2) (3).  

The dwarf chameleon occurs only on a high plateau in western central Madagascar, where it has been recorded in the Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park and adjacent forests, on the western slopes of the Antsingy Forest (2) (3) (5) (6). 

This species inhabits an area of deciduous primary forest, at elevations of 100 to 300 metres (2). This area is characterised by little or no precipitation during the dry season, when trees lose their leaves and the undergrowth diminishes, but during the rainy season, from October to April, the forest is rejuvenated (2).

Although largely terrestrial, the dwarf chameleon sleeps in low vegetation, on stems or leaves around 15 centimetres above the ground (4). The life-history of Brookesia chameleons is poorly understood, but copulation and egg-deposition has been observed for the dwarf chameleon during February (3).

There are few threats to the dwarf chameleon. There is very low commercial demand for this tiny chameleon and currently no legal export quota for this species exists. However, the continued degradation of the dry forest in and around Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park is cause for concern because even small changes to forest structure might have a negative impact on this species (5).

The dwarf chameleon occurs in the Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park and probably also the Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve (6) (7). Protected areas provide this species with some protection, but do not completely eliminate the threats of illegal harvesting and habitat degradation as a result of fires, cattle damage and timber exploitation (5) (7). The dwarf chameleon is also listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that trade in this species should be carefully controlled in order to be compatible with their survival (1). 

For further information on the dwarf chameleon see:

Authenticated (07/03/11) by Dr Richard K.B. Jenkins, Madagasikara Voakajy and Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent.

  1. CITES (July, 2007)
  2. Nečas, P. and Schmidt, W. (2004) Stump-tailed chameleons. Miniature Dragons of the Rainforest. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt.
  3. Schimmenti, G. and Jesu, R. (1996) Brookesia exarmata sp. nov. (Reptilia, Chamaeleonidae) a new dwarf chameleon from the limestone outcrops of western Madagascar. Italian Journal of Zoology, 63: 193-197.
  4. Randrianantoandro, J.C., Randrianavelona, R., Andriantsimanarilafy, R.R., Fideline, H.E., Rakotondravony, D. and Jenkins, R.K.B. (2007) Roost site characteristics of sympatric dwarf chameleons (genus Brookesia) from western Madagascar. Amphibia-Reptilia, 28: 577-581.
  5. Randrianantoandro, J.C., Randrianavelona, R., Andriantsimanarilafy, R.R., Fideline, H.E., Rakotondravony, D., Randrianasolo, M., Ravelomanantsoa, H.L. and Jenkins, R.K.B. (2008) Identifying priority areas for dwarf chameleon (Brookesia spp.) conservation in Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, Madagascar. Oryx, 42: 578-573.
  6. Bora, P., Randrianantoandro, J.C., Randrianavelona, R., Hantalalaina, E.F., Andriantsimanarilafy, R.R., Rakotondravony, D., Ramilijaona, O.R., Vences, M., Jenkins, R.K.B., Glaw, F. and Kohler, J. (2010) The herpetofauna of the Tsingy de Bemaraha plateau, western Madagascar: checklist, biogeography and conservation. Herpelogical Conservation and Biology, 5: 111-125.
  7. UNEP-WCMC: Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve (February, 2008)