The scientists have unearthed three new species of tiny dragon-like woodlizards in the Andean cloud forests of Ecuador and Peru.
All the three new species of woodlizards possess color, scale features and DNA that differ from those that are found in their closest relatives, according to the scientists.
The scientists said that this is a remarkable finding as the reptiles are among the largest and most colorful lizards found in the tropical forests of South America. According to the scientists, the discovery of the new species had raised the total number of woodlizards species to 15.
Omar Torres-Carvajal, lead study author from Ecuador’s Museo de Zoologia, said, “During the last few years we doubled the number of known species of woodlizards, showing that the diversity of these conspicuous reptiles had been underestimated.”
“That more than half of the diversity of a group of large, dragon-looking reptiles from South America has been discovered in recent years should be heard by people in charge of conservation and funding agencies,” Torres-Carvajal said in a statement.
Talking about the woodlizards (Enyalioides), the scientists said that these reptiles are active during the daytime and generally live in the lowland tropical rainforests like the western Amazon basin and Chocó as well as the cloud forests on both sides of the Andes.
The researchers carried several expeditions to different regions along the Ecuador and Andes of Peru, which helped them to collect various specimens of woodlizards. For the study, the scientists carried comparative analysis of the new specimens with older ones that were deposited in many natural history museums across different countries. The researchers also examined the DNA evidence to determine whether the newly uncovered lizards represent new species.
Kevin de Queiroz, supervisor of Torres-Carvajal at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, said, “Woodlizards are fairly large and conspicuous, so it’s interesting that roughly half of the currently recognized species have been discovered in the last 10 years.”
The findings of the study were published on Monday in the journal ZooKeys.