A team of scientists went looking for a tiny species of chameleon that is only the size of a golf tee (5.5 cm/2.2 inches long).

A golf ball balanced on a tee. Image by Brendan Dalley from Pixabay.

They were afraid that this chameleon species – Chapman’s pygmy chameleon – might have gone extinct in its home country of Malawi, which is located in southern Africa. The rainforests this chameleon lives in have mostly been converted to human uses like farming since it was discovered in 1992.

Where the Chapman’s pygmy chameleon lives:

The good news is that the chameleon is still there! And several patches of its rainforest home are still there too. The scientists from the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the Museums of Malawi who rediscovered Chapman’s pygmy chameleon hope that they can help find ways to conserve this rare species and its remaining forest habitat so that it does not disappear for real.

Krystal Tolley, a professor from the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the University of the Witwatersrand, described the appearance and behavior of the newly rediscovered Chapman’s chameleon: “They are mostly brown but they can change to quite beautiful blues and greens with little dots all over them and that’s probably a way of communicating with each other,” Krystal said.

Can you see the blue and green dots on the chameleon’s skin?
The Chapman’s pygmy chameleon shows its blue and green dots, likely used for communication. Images by Krystal Tolley.
And now for some camouflage!
The Chapman’s pygmy chameleon uses its camouflage to blend in with dry leaves on the forest floor. Image by Krystal Tolley.

Krystal Tolley: “They also vibrate and we could feel it when we held them. We don’t really know why but it’s also probably some form of communication. The fact they do it while held in our hands could mean it’s a way to try and scare predators.”

Want to learn more? Watch this video from the team who made the discovery:

Modified from an original article on Mongabay.com: