Tiny, Shiny Lizard Discovered in Asian Forest

A new lizard species has been uncovered in Cambodia, a remarkable creature with a long, snakelike body, tiny legs and scales that shimmer with a rainbow-hued iridescence.

The disco-ready lizard is tiny, about 3 inches (7 centimeters) long from snout to tail, and researchers found only a single specimen.

In early 2010, a small search team discovered the adult male near a stream, during a daytime trek through an evergreen forest in the remote northeast region of the country, near the Laotian border.

Scientists typically wait to reveal such finds until an animal is officially described as a new species — a time-consuming process — thus the two-year lag between the discovery and announcement.

Researchers dubbed the newfound reptile Lygosoma veunsaiensis, in honor of the place it was discovered, Cambodia’s Veun Sai-Siem Pang Conservation Area.

L. veunsaiensis is a type of skink, lizards famed for their long, narrow bodies, stubby legs, and the awkward gait that often results.

Finding the lizard was a rare piece of luck, researchers say. Members of the Lygosoma genus are notoriously secretive.

“These creatures are difficult to find because they spend so much of their life hidden underground,” said Flora and Fauna International’s Neang Thy, an author on a paper documenting the discovery published in the journal Zootaxa.

“Some similar species are known from only a few individuals. We were very lucky to find this one,” Thy said in a statement.

The Veun Sai region has proved a treasure trove of new species discovery in recent years, due in part to decades-long conflict that kept researchers away from Cambodia until the late 1990s, according to a statement from Peter Geissler, a German scientist and lead author on the Zootaxa paper.

“Now we have a chance to uncover many of the things that have previously been missed, especially new reptiles,” he said.

The discovery comes on the heels of other exciting discoveries in lizard taxonomy. Researchers in Peru recently unearthed a new species of bright, water-loving lizard, and in Madagascar, scientists discovered the world’s tiniest chameleon, a creature tiny enough to perch on the head of a match.

This story was provided by OurAmazingPlanet, a sister site to LiveScience.

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