New Chameleon species now named by life sciences team in East Africa

Published: 5 January 2010 at 13:11

The ‘Magombera’ discovery brings the total of known chameleon species to 161

A new species of chameleon discovered in Tanzania has now been identified and named by a team of life science experts including Anglia Ruskin University Research Fellow Trevor Jones.

Conservation zoologist Trevor was the first to photograph the newly-named ‘Magombera’ chameleon when he spotted it walking on the inside of his tent.  He was camped in the Mwanihana forest, in the Udzungwa Mountains of south-central Tanzania, studying endangered monkeys, and knew that there was no species of its kind reported from that site. One year later, Dr Andrew Marshall, from the University of York, also spotted the reptile while surveying monkeys in another forest, the Magombera Forest, when he disturbed a tree snake eating one.

The specimen was collected and tested and compared to others found in East Africa. The study that followed included Dr Marshall and researchers from the Meseo Tridentino di Scienze Naturali, the South African National Biodiversity Institute, Anglia Ruskin University and the University of Stellenbosch.

Anglia Ruskin University’s Faculty of Science & Technology’s life sciences team has also been instrumental in the discovery of a new species of monkey and elephant-shrew, both in Tanzania.  

Trevor Jones is full of enthusiasm about the find:

"It is so unlikely the way these discoveries happen. There has been plenty of reporting on how my colleague, Andy Marshall of York University, spotted this chameleon. It was a year before that, back in 2003, when I first spotted this little guy. I’m no expert on chameleons but I knew that there was no species of this kind reported from that site, and when I showed a photo to my friend Michele Menegon, who told me with great enthusiasm that this was probably a new species. He since went on to describe it taxonomically.  So far we only know this species from two forests of the Udzungwa Mountains."

"The chameleon has been named Kinyongia magomberae (the Magombera chameleon).  It was named after the second forest it was discovered in, to highlight this unprotected and highly threatened site.  It is hoped that the naming of the chameleon will help to convince the government to give further protection to the area.

"I’m delighted that this new reptile has been named after the Magombera forest, as this is a beautiful, unique and currently unprotected forest on the Kilomero plain, just outside of the Selous Game Reserve. It is a great move as the more attention that conservation efforts there can receive, the better."

The Magombera discovery brings the total of known chameleon species to 161.

Chameleons are a specialised group of lizards that often have the ability to change colours and are known for their dinosaur-like heads and parrot-like feet. The new species is most easily distinguished from its closest relatives by a very small and immobile horn-like appendage on the end of its nose.