New pygmy chameleon from the southern high plateau of Madagascar

Currently known only from near Ambalavao, Brookesia brunoi is one of the few arid-adapted Brookesia species inhabiting deciduous forests of Madagascar

Brookesia brunoi in typical night roosting position. Photo: Angelica Crottini

The recenlty described Brookesia brunoi belongs to the Brookesia decaryi group formed by Brookesia species of western Madagascar: B. bonsi, B. perarmata, B. brygooi and B. decaryi. This species is currently known only from the type locality within the Anja Reserve, although a recent Brookesia record from Ambovombé in the far south and a record from the Andringitra region seems to refer to B. brunoi. Furthermore it is possibile that some literature records of the superficially similar B. decaryi, B. brygooi, B. ebenaui and B. stumpffi from the central areas of Madagascar might actually refer to B. brunoi indicating that further investigations are required to better understand its actual distribution and to better characterize its conservation requirments.

An integrative taxonomic approach has been applied to describe this species and investigate the species’ group it belongs to. Brookesia brunoi sp. nov. differs from the other four species of the group by a high genetic divergence and by a combination of morphological characters: (1) nine pairs of laterovertebral pointed tubercles, (2) absence of enlarged pointed tubercles around the vent, (3) presence of poorly defined laterovertebral tubercles along the entire tail, (4) by the configuration of its cephalic crest, and (5) hemipenial morphology.

The resulting molecular phylogenetic tree shows that Brookesia brunoi sp. nov. is sister to a clade containing both B. brygooi, B. decaryi, and probably B. bonsi for which no genetic data were available. 

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