Two new lizard species discovered in Brazil


Stenocercus fimbriatus, photo Field MuseumFrom Wildlife Extra:

Two new lizards discovered in Brazil

JANUARY 2007. Two new species of lizard found in Brazil were described in the latest issue of the South American Journal of Herpetology.

Just 14cms long, these small creatures resemble miniature dragons according to the scientists who discovered them.

Living primarily near the ground, on tree trunks and small cavities, they use their disruptive colours and cryptic behaviour as camouflage in the dense and dry savannas.

The same area in Brazil has recently been in the news for the rediscovery of the Caatinga woodpecker which hadn’t been seen for 80 years.

The two new species are found generally in a special type of dense savannah, locally called ‘carrasco,’ in dry, flat sandstone tabletops.

This type of habitat, whose origins are still a puzzle to botanists, harbour a mixture of Cerrado and Caatinga plant species, and is being quickly destroyed by irregular charcoal production and soybean plantations.

These habitats may represent ancient vegetation types now restricted to naturally isolated fragments within the surrounding Caatinga and Cerrado.

Recent estimates show that at least 2 million hectares of the Cerrado are destroyed each year.

It is estimated that by 2030, only the legally protected areas (now covering less than 3% of the region) will remain as original Cerrado habitats.

Discovered in the region of Grande Sertao Veredas National Park, on the tablelands of the Serra Geral plateau, Stenocercus quinarius is relatively safe within the protected area.

However, its populations outside the conserved area are under threat due to habitat loss and the expansion of mechanized agriculture, especially in the Cerrado areas of the Bahia state – where CI has been working in the Jalapao-Western Bahia biodiversity corridor.

The situation of Stenocercus squarrosus, discovered during a field research lead by Hussam Zaher, curator of reptiles at MZUSP (University of Sao Paulo Zoology Museum), also deserves attention.

The new species was found only within Serra das Confusoes National Park, in the Cerrado and Caatinga contact zone, where CI works in the Uruçui-Mirador biodiversity corridor.

This protected area may be enlarged soon, expanding to pristine tabletops of the Serra Vermelha.

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