A new species of endangered lizard has been found in south-eastern Australia.
For over a year, scientists have been studying the Grassland Earless Dragon, which has featured on the endangered species list since 1996, and they have discovered there are actually “four” separate “species” of the tiny lizard, which is patterned in a distinct green, brown and yellow colour and weighs around eight grams.
The author of the study, Dr. Jane Melville from Museum Victoria, told Xinhua: “Over the last year, I’ve been working with them and researchers at the University of Canberra, and we’ve been looking at the genetics and the morphology of the lizards.
“What we’ve discovered is that it’s not one single species, but it’s, in fact, four species.
Dr. Melville found that the new species of lizard had four distinct classifications with different characteristics.
“They’ve developed some ingenious ways of catching them,” Melville said.
“These lizards hide in spider burrows and out in the grassland there are big wolf spiders, so one of the ways researchers catch them is to make artificial spider burrows in the ground and when they come back they will check if there is a little lizard in there.”
Xinhua reports that out of the four the newly discovered species may already be extinct. While the discovery should give conservationists a much better understanding of how to protect the creatures, one of the new species categorized has not been sighted since 1969, sparking fears it may be the first ever reptile to become extinct on the Australian mainland.
With researchers now trying desperately to locate the species, Melville said “I’m optimistic. I really hope they find it.”