Since good things come in pairs, there are two species that carry the title for the world's smallest lizard. "Sphaerodactylus ariasae" is also known as a Jaragua Sphaero or the world's smallest most recently discovered lizard. This reptile belongs to the dwarf gecko family and was found on a Caribbean island shared by the Dominican Republic and Hatti, on the tiny Beata Island.
The other "smallest" species is named Sphaerodactylus parthenopion or "Virgin Gorda Least Gecko," which was discovered in 1965 in the British Virgin Islands. Both species will barely cover the width of a dime. They range about sixteen millimeters long as an adult from nose to tail. These babies are not only the smallest of reptiles but also of all 23,000 species of birds and mammals. That makes them the world's smallest vertebrate that can reproduce on dry land.
What is a gecko?
The gecko is a unique reptile with is vocal chirping noises it uses to communicate socially. Most have no eyelids but instead have a small membrane that covers the eye. They use their sticky tongue to clean the membrane. Usually they are recognized by their circular pads on each toe which allows them to climb or hang from nearly any surface, much like mini suction cups.
The toes bend in the opposite direction from a human's fingers and toes. This allows them to overcome the van der Waals force (a momentary attraction of molecules) by peeling their toes off surfaces from the tips inward.
Like nearly all lizards, the gecko can release its tail once in self defense in a life or death situation. The vertebrae have a fracture point located in their middle, which breaks under pressure. When it's separated from the body the tail will spasm or thrash and distract the predator from the rest of the body, which will then flee to safety.
If you have any doubts that you've ever seen a gecko, be sure to refer your memory to the legendary icon of the "Gieco auto insurance" commercials. Soon you'll recall the austrailian accent and the green adorable guy.
The tiny lizard was discovered by biologists Blair Hedges and Richard Thomas where it lives in Jaragua National Park. The habitat it was found living in was a sink hole in a cave close to a partially destroyed forest covered in moist leaf litter. With the destruction of the trees down soon this tiny lizard's habitat will disappear.
The Jaragua body is slim and stretches about three quarters of an inch long max. Their skin is dark brown and covered in darker spots from nose to tail for camouflage. Its major predators would be scorpions and centipedes which it would encounter on its hunt for food. The Jaragua lives off of smaller insects it is believed, taking on the roll much like a spider. It assumed the smaller the species gets the larger its surface area must gain to compensate for the nervous system and hydration of the animal.
Jaragua Sphaero's binomial name "Sphaerodactylus ariasae" was in honor of herpetologist Yvonne Arias. Who was the leader of the Dominican conservation organization "Grupo Jaragua". Which was needed in securing the environmental protection of Jaragua National Park. The park has been stripped mostly of its natural wildness due to tree destruction.
Virgin Gorda Least Gecko:
The pygmy gecko has been put on the protected list of endangered species so it's not likely you will find them in any pet store. They also live among leaf litter and sticks and are active in the early mornings and late evenings. The coloring is a slick brown with darker strips or spots in line down the back. This is to help hide the lizard among its habitat from larger predators.
Its size ties it for the world's smallest title because it measures the same as the Jaragua.
It is difficult to distinguish adults from juveniles in the small species. Measurements of ovaries and the male's sex organs must be measured to be sure of maturity. They may be limited to see color but are assumed to see well in poor lighting conditions.
Itty bitty Lizards have invaded almost every niche on the earth unlike several groups of snakes. Hopefully for the sake of science and herpetologists this wont be the last we hear of the world's smallest lizards