Leaf chameleon (Brookesia confidens)

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Female Brookesia confidens

Top facts

  • Like all leaf chameleons, Brookesia confidens is famous for being one of the smallest lizards in the world.
  • Brookesia confidens gets it scientific name confidens from the Latin word for ‘confident’, as researchers are quietly confident about the future of this species.
  • Like other Brookesia chameleons, Brookesia confidens uses its tail like a ‘fifth leg’ when walking.
  • Brookesia confidens, and other related Brookesia species, may have begun to genetically diverge from each other as early as 20 million years ago. 
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Leaf chameleon fact file

Leaf chameleon description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyChamaeleonidae
GenusBrookesia (1)

Leaf chameleons of the Brookesia genus are renowned for their tiny size (4), and Brookesia confidens is no exception. First discovered in 2007, and formally described in 2012, this species was one of four tiny leaf chameleons to be newly discovered in northern Madagascar (1).

Although some variation in Brookesia confidens has been described, this species is generally light grey or pale beige on the head, back and tail, and brown on the sides. The limbs are almost entirely dark brown, and along the back pointed tubercles form a complete line. Brookesia species are characterised by a short, non-prehensile tail (1).

Under stress, Brookesia confidens is able to rapidly change colour, revealing a pale stripe down the centre of its back which is conspicuous against its darker sides. Some individuals are known to display dark brown spots on the flanks, a pattern also believed to be related to stress (1)

Size
Male total length: 29.2 - 34.2 mm (1)
Female total length: 32.5 - 36.2 mm (1)
Male snout-vent length: 18.3 - 20.1 mm (1)
Female snout-vent length: 20.6 - 22.6 mm (1)
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Leaf chameleon biology

The restricted locality of Brookesia confidens suggests that this species has a preference for very specific habitat types, particularly as no specimens have been found in similar areas nearby (1).

Brookesia confidens is active on the ground during the daytime, foraging in the leaf litter, and at night climbs into the vegetation to rest on small branches, 5 to 20 centimetres from the ground (1). There is no data currently available on the diet of Brookesia confidens.

Like other members of the Brookesia genus, Brookesia confidens may be representing a case of island dwarfism, a phenomenon whereby a species adapts over time to being restricted to a particular habitat, for example an island, by becoming smaller (5).

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Leaf chameleon range

Brookesia confidens is known only from Ankarana National Park, Antsiranana Province, in northern Madagascar (1).

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Leaf chameleon habitat

Within Ankarana National Park, Brookesia confidens is restricted to a single area of dry deciduous forest with underlying eroded limestone and rocky outcrops (1).

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Leaf chameleon status

Brookesia confidens has not yet been classified by the IUCN, but all Brookesia species are listed on Appendix II of CITES (2) (3).

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Leaf chameleon threats

Due to its restricted range, Brookesia confidens may be particularly vulnerable to disturbance of its habitat (5). However, the future looks hopeful for this endemic species, as its range is located within a well-protected nature reserve, Ankarana. Additional protection is provided by the limestone formations surrounding the reserve, making the area fairly inaccessible (1).

Brookesia species, in general, are often threatened by habitat loss and collection for trade (3).

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Leaf chameleon conservation

Although no conservation measures are currently in place for Brookesia confidens, it is hoped that this species will remain well protected within the Ankarana National Park (1).

All Brookesia species are listed on Appendix II, and one species on Appendix I, of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that any international trade of these species should be carefully controlled and monitored (2) (3).

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Find out more

Find out more about Brookesia confidens:

More on Ankarana National Park:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Deciduous forest
Forest consisting mainly of deciduous trees, which shed their leaves at the end of the growing season.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Genus
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Prehensile
Capable of grasping.
Tubercle (tubercles)
A small, rounded, wart-like bump on the skin or on a bone.
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References

  1. Glaw, F., Köhler, J., Townsend, T.M. and Vences, M. (2012) Rivaling the world’s smallest reptiles: discovery of miniaturized and microendemic new species of leaf chameleons (Brookesia) from northern Madagascar. PLoS ONE, 7(2): 1-24. Available at:
    http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0031314
  2. CITES (January, 2013)
    http://www.cites.org/
  3. Carpenter, A.I. and Robson, O. (2005) A review of the endemic chameleon genus Brookesia from Madagascar, and the rationale for its listing on CITES Appendix II. Oryx, 39(4): 375-380.
  4. Zukerman, W. (2012) Zoologger: Itsy bitsy teeny weeny chameleons. New Scientist, 15 February. Available at:
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21478-zoologger-itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny-chameleons.html
  5. Davies, E. (2012) Tiny lizards found in Madagascar. BBC News, 15 February. Available at:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/17028940
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Image credit

Female Brookesia confidens  
Female Brookesia confidens

© Jörn Köhler

Jörn Köhler
Department of Zoology
Hessisches Landesmuseum
Friedensplatz 1
64283
Darmstadt
Germany
Fax: +49 (6151) 165765

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