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New lizard species named after David Attenborough

Sitana attenboroughii was recently discovered in Kerala, in southern India. The lizard features a strikingly coloured fan on it dewlap. The rainbow-throated lizard was named in honour of the acclaimed documentary narrator, Sir David Attenborough.

Though, there isn’t much of a resemblance between the two.

Sitana attenboroughii was first documented in a recent paper by lead author Zeeshan Mirza,  a researcher at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bengaluru, and co-author Mayaresh Ambekar. The researchers reportedly learned about this lizard from a friend and set out to investigate as no lizards of the Sitana genus were known to live in Kerala. At first, a similarity to the species Sitana visiri was noted but there are key differences between the lizards which meant that this recent discovery is an entirely new species. Unlike S. visiri, S. attenboroughii has a shorter but brightly coloured dewlap.

The impressive fan on S. attenboroughii‘s throat develops when males reach mating age and is used for attracting females, as well as for intimidating other males during territorial disputes. The new species is of average size for the genus, measuring about 5.5cm at full size. The species is observed to be something of a pest-controller, keeping the local population of insects under check.

Sitana attenboroughii‘s short lifespan is estimated to be about 3 months and, more critically, its very small habitat is at risk. It is currently only known to inhabit Poovar Beach in Kerala. Mirza and his research team have reportedly applied for a preservation status for the area to ensure S. attenboroughii‘s continued survival and so that further research can be carried out.

According to the Bangalore Mirror, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of Indian lizard species being discovered across the last decade. Further research into India’s wilderness may be the most logical step to learning more about any species still waiting to be found. However, it’s also clear that many species may be at risk even before their discovery and great care must be taken to ensure their survival.

Ronan Daly

Ronan Daly is a staff writer for My Good Planet who specialises in Technology and Science. With a Masters Degree in English, and over a decade's experience as a teacher and writer, Ronan has brought a breezy, learned style to My Good Planet, making occasionally complex material accessible and understandable to all.