Researchers discovered three new species of dragon-like woodlizards in the Andes.
These types of lizards, dubbed "dwarf dragons," are the largest and most colorful found in the forests of South America, Pensoft Publishers reported.
The new species were discovered during recent expeditions across the Andes of Ecuador and Peru that collected a variety of specimens. DNA evidence from these samples suggested they contained three previously-undescribed species of woodlizard. These samples were also compared with those from several natural history museums from a variety of countries, further backing up the findings.
"I started working with woodlizards in 2006 as part of my postdoc at the Smithsonian Institution under the direction of Kevin de Queiroz. At that time only seven species of woodlizards had been described, and they were recognized in the literature as one of the less diverse groups of South American lizards. During the last few years we doubled the number of known species of woodlizards, showing that the diversity of these conspicuous reptiles had been underestimated. That more than half of the diversity of a group of large, dragon-looking reptiles from South America has been discovered in recent years should be heard by people in charge of conservation and funding agencies," said Omar Torres-Carvajal . of Museo de Zoología QCAZ, Ecuador.
Woodlizards are diurnal, and typically live in lowland tropical rainforests and cloud forests on either side of the Andes. These new findings increase the number of known woodlizard species to 15.
The recent findings were published in a recent edition of the journal Zookeys.