A new genus name for an ancient Malagasy chameleon clade and a PDF-embedded 3D model of its skeleton

 Micro-computed tomography has arrived in chameleon taxonomy

The first photograph of a male Palleon lolontany. Photo: Frank Glaw

Computed tomography has led to a revolution in human medicine and the fast technical progress in this field allows many innovative applications. In the last years machines optimized for the study of small objects (micro-CTs) have become available for studying small animals and are now leading to a remarkable revival of comparative anatomy, a discipline that until recently was often considered as an old-fashioned science of the prior centuries.

IUCN Chameleon Specialist Group member Dr. Frank Glaw and his co-authors Dr. Oliver Hawlitschek and Dr. Bernhard Ruthensteiner recently provided a three-dimensional skeleton model of a rare and poorly known chameleon. This model is embedded in the pdf of the publication and thus easily available to everybody with a recent version of the standard software Adobe Reader. A free download of this paper including the embedded model is available from the journal Salamandra here.

The studied chameleon, known as Brookesia lolontany, and their closest relatives differ strongly from all other Brookesia species and belong to a clade that split off very early in the evolutionary history of chameleons. Thus the authors placed it into a new genus Palleon that now contains the two species Palleon nasus and P. lolontany.

Hitherto P. lolontany was only known from a few females which were collected on the highest mountain of Madagascar, the Tsaratanana massif. A recent expedition in the year 2012 found this chameleon on the Sorata mountains, another massif further north, showing that it is more widespread than formerly expected. Furthermore, the first male of P. lolontany was discovered – a small reptile that bears a nose-like appendage on the snout tip.

Glaw, F., Hawlitschek, O. & Ruthensteiner, B. 2013. A new genus name for an ancient Malagasy chameleon clade and a PDF-embedded 3D model of its skeleton. Salamandra 49 (4): 237-238.

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