Credit: Koppetsch et al.
The Pal Mountains in south-central Ethiopia are one of the most unique centers of endemism, with an extraordinary number of plants and animals that can only be found there. Several species are already known from the high-altitude Afromontane Plateau, making it a biodiversity hotspot, but ongoing research continues to reveal the existence of unknown and as yet undescribed organisms.
Zoologists Thor Kobach and Benjamin Wipfler of the Alexander Koenig Research Museum in Bonn, Germany, and Peter Nias from the Czech Republic describe one of these species: a new, tiny chameleon that lives on the edge of a forest. Their findings have been published in the open-access and peer-reviewed Life Sciences journal. Zoology and Evolution.
There were actually two species of the Trioceros chameleon genus known to be confined to the Bale region when Thore Koppetsch and colleagues discovered another unique representative of this group from the northern slopes of the Pal Mountains. Interestingly, this new chameleon is part of the widely distributed group of Ethiopian chameleon species, Trioceros affinis. Previous studies indicated a divergence between different populations across the Ethiopian highlands – with some separated by the northern extension of the Great Rift Valley, which also shaped the evolution of early humans.
The new chameleon, Trioceros wolfgangboehmei, has a special name. The scientific work of Wolfgang Böhme, Senior Reptile Specialist at the Alexander Koenig Museum of Animal Research in Bonn, honors his passion for chameleons and other reptiles.
Aside from the biogeographic patterns, the new species also have a distinct appearance, displaying enlarged spiny scales on their back and tail that form a prominent crest. It usually lives in trees and shrubs at an altitude of more than 2,500 meters above sea level.
“Due to the difference in color patterns and morphology between different groups of these chameleons in Ethiopia, it is possible that these groups still exhibit a subtle diversity higher than expected, which may be revealed through further ongoing investigations,” notes Thor Kubi. Moreover, the research team urges the conservation and sustainable preservation of their habitats to mitigate the impact of human activity.
Koppetsch T, Nečas P, Wipfler B (2021) a new chameleon from the species group Trioceros affinis (Squamata, Chamaeleonidae) from Ethiopia. Zoology and Evolution 97 (1): 161-179. https: /