The lizards are also known as dwarf iguanas, and belong to the Enyalioides genus of diurnal, spiky and brightly colored reptiles found in cloud forests and lowland tropical rainforests in the Andes, Chocó and western Amazon basins. As Susannah L. Bodman writes for The Oregonian, the new species are among the largest and most colorful lizards in South America.
Three lizard species discovered and named
A paper published in the journal ZooKeys describes the lizards, stating that male specimens range in length from 11 to 14 inches long, and the three species are intensely colorful, featuring shades of almost neon green, as well as spots and stripes.
The first new species, Enyalioides altotambo, takes its name from the tiny Ecuadorian village of Alto Tambo, where it was discovered. According to the paper, males lizards look like small iguanas, and larger females look more like chameleons.
Enyalioides anisolepis, or rough-scaled woodlizard, was discovered in the Andes of southern Ecuador and northern Peru. A series of short spikes run down its back and certain examples have been observed with bright green, brown and burnt orange coloring.
The Rothschild’s woodlizard, Enyalioides sophiarothschildae, is found in Peru and sports a distinctive white or light-colored chin and throat. It also has a series of bright-green spikes running down its back.
South America full of natural secrets
In 2006 there were only seven known species of Enyalioides. That number has almost doubled in the past few years, and the three new additions join a list that could grow even further.
Paper co-author Kevin de Queiroz, a research zoologist with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, stated that: “Woodlizards are fairly large and conspicuous, so it’s interesting that roughly half of the currently recognized species have been discovered in the last 10 years. This illustrates how much we still have to learn about South American reptiles.”
It appears that the continent has not yet revealed all of its secrets, and there remain vast tracts of land to be explored in the hope of finding new species of flora and fauna.