A diminutive iridescent lizard is the latest new species to be discovered in Cambodia’s remote and poorly explored rainforests.
Neang Thy, Head of Biological Research (Phnom Penh) with Fauna & Flora International (FFI), was the first herpetologist to see the lizard, a type of skink, during an expedition led by FFI and Conservation International (CI).
The new species is unusual in having extremely short limbs and a tail considerably longer than its body. In sunlight a refracting quality to the scales creates a rainbow-like effect along its body.
Named Lygosoma veunsaiensis by scientists to honour the Veun Sai-Siem Pang Conservation Area in Ratanakiri where it was first found, the skink is the latest in a string of new species discovered in this area. “This is the third new species in the last two years to be discovered in Veun Sai,” said Ben Rawson of Conservation International. “Last year a new type of bat was found here, and in 2010 a new gibbon species was described. Naming this new skink Lygosoma veunsaiensis is a nice tribute to the area’s biological value.”
Cambodian national Neang Thy explained, “These creatures are difficult to find because they spend so much of their life hidden underground. Some similar species are known from only a few individuals. We were very lucky to find this one.”
Cambodia is proving a biodiversity hotbed for new discoveries, especially reptiles. Peter Geissler from Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig in Germany, one of the authors who described the skink, attributes this to the lack of recent research. “Three decades of conflict effectively prevented herpetological investigations until the late 1990s,” he said, “and now we have a chance to uncover many of the things that have previously been missed, especially new reptiles.”