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The Western Ghats’ biodiverse forests have produced yet another evolutionary marvel: a new species of tiny lizards dubbed the “diminutive dragon” by researchers. Agasthyagama edge, also known as the northern kangaroo lizard, belongs to the Agamidae family and has a maximum snout-vent length of 4.3 cm.
The species is the second in the Agasthyagama genus, following Indian kangaroo lizard, which was previously reported from the Sivagiri hills in Tamil Nadu.
A group of scientists from various institutions in India and abroad discovered the new species in the southern Western Ghats at Kulamavu in Kerala’s Idukki.
Because of their reduced fifth toes, these reptiles are poor climbers and thus do not climb trees like other lizards.
Instead, they are primarily terrestrial and live in areas with dense leaf litter cover. While feeding on small insects, this type of kangaroo lizard runs quickly and hides among dry leaves to avoid predators. The findings were published in Vertebrate Zoology, a scientific journal published by the Senckenberg Museum in Germany.
First observed in 2015
According to the study’s lead author, Sandeep Das, a Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) national post-doctoral fellow at Calicut University, the species was discovered during an expedition in search of another evasive species, the Mahabali frog, or purple frog, in 2015.