Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Malagasy Chameleon Spends Most Of Its Short Life In An Egg

Date:
July 2, 2008
Source:
American Museum of Natural History
Summary:
There is a newly discovered life history among the 28,300 species of known tetrapods. A chameleon from arid southwestern Madagascar spends up to three-quarters of its life in an egg. Even more unusual, life after hatching is a mere 4 to 5 months. No other known four-legged animal has such a rapid growth rate and such a short life span.

Adult male Labord's chameleon (Furcifer labordi) from Ranobe, Southwestern Madagascar.
Credit: Christopher J. Raxworthy

There is a newly discovered life history among the 28,300 species of known tetrapods, or four-legged animals with backbones. A chameleon from arid southwestern Madagascar spends up to three-quarters of its life in an egg. Even more unusual, life after hatching is a mere 4 to 5 months. No other known four-legged animal has such a rapid growth rate and such a short life span.

Related Articles


"It really is a huge surprise," says Christopher Raxworthy, Associate Curator in the Department of Herpetology at the American Museum of Natural History. "Adding to that, until now, the short life span of chameleons in captivity has always been considered as a failure to thrive. We need to rethink this."

Most mammals, reptiles, birds, and amphibians (all tetrapods) typically live 2 to 10 years, an average bracketed at the upper end by some long-lived animals (for example, turtles and humans that can live for a century) and at the lower end by a handful of animals that only live for about a year.

The males in nine species of marsupials die off after a year, for example, as do most adults in about twelve species of lizards. But the chameleon described here, Furcifer labordi, not only has a brief, yearly life cycle, but the bulk of that time is spent incubating inside an egg. Once outside of the egg, all individuals in the population die within 4 to 5 months.

Kristopher Karsten, a graduate student from the Department of Zoology at Oklahoma State University, discovered the unusual life cycle almost by accident. "I showed up late in the season and found something weird," recalls Karsten. "There were no juveniles. But by February, I found carcasses all over with no signs of mutilation or predation. The population plummeted--we've never seen this with other lizards."

Now, after five seasons of data and sightings of nearly 400 individuals, the life cycle of F. labordi can be described. Hatching begins with the rains in November, and, once emerged, the chameleons develop rapidly, growing up to 2.6 mm (0.1 inches) a day--up to two orders of magnitude greater than other known lizard growth rate. In less than 60 days, for example, there can be a 300%-400% increase in body size for males to reach adulthood. After reaching maturity, the population reproduces, and females burrow through about 138 mm (5.4 inches) of sand to lay their eggs. Once covered, the eggs wait out the dry season for the next 8 to 9 months, and all adults die.

"It is amazing to think that for most of the year, this chameleon species is represented only by developing eggs buried in the ground," says Raxworthy. "This species really illustrates just how much there is still to discover about the natural history of Madagascar." Karsten agrees, adding: "We've identified a species that does something really different from the others, but what is driving this system? One bad year could wipe out these chameleons."

The new research is reported in the June 30 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research was carried out by Karsten and Laza Andriamandimbiarisoa of the Département de Biologie Animale, Université d'Antananarivo in Madagascar. Raxworthy and Stanley Fox of the Department of Zoology at Oklahoma State University helped design the study and write the research paper. The project was funded by a National Science Foundation grant to Raxworthy.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Museum of Natural History. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Museum of Natural History. "Malagasy Chameleon Spends Most Of Its Short Life In An Egg." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080630173924.htm>.
American Museum of Natural History. (2008, July 2). Malagasy Chameleon Spends Most Of Its Short Life In An Egg. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080630173924.htm
American Museum of Natural History. "Malagasy Chameleon Spends Most Of Its Short Life In An Egg." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080630173924.htm (accessed March 28, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lioness Has Rare Five-Cub Litter

Raw: Lioness Has Rare Five-Cub Litter

AP (Mar. 27, 2015) — A lioness in Pakistan has given birth to five cubs, twice the usual size of a litter. Queen gave birth to two other cubs just nine months ago. (March 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jockey Motion Tracking Reveals Racing Prowess

Jockey Motion Tracking Reveals Racing Prowess

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 26, 2015) — Using motion tracking technology, researchers from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) are trying to establish an optimum horse riding style to train junior jockeys, as well as enhance safety, health and well-being of both racehorses and jockeys. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bear Cubs Tumble for the Media

Bear Cubs Tumble for the Media

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Mar. 26, 2015) — Two Andean bear cubs are unveiled at the U.S. National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Alicia Powell reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Botswana Talks to End Illegal Wildlife Trade

Botswana Talks to End Illegal Wildlife Trade

AFP (Mar. 25, 2015) — Experts are gathering in Botswana to try to end the illegal wildlife trade that is decimating populations of elephants, rhinos and other threatened species. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins