Blind Legless Lizard Species Discovered in Cambodia

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A previously undiscovered species of lizard has been discovered in the Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia. The lizard, which has no eyes or legs, has been confirmed to be a species not previously seen in the science community. Neang Thy, who works for the Ministry of Environment in Cambodia and Fauna & Flora International (FFI), uncovered the creature, which resembles a snake, while out exploring in the mountains when he found the lizard underneath a log.

According to National Geographic News Thy said in a press release "At first I thought it was a common species, but looking closer, I realized it was something I didn't recognize."

Dr. Thy captured and brought the blind and legless lizard in to show colleagues for examination. After scrutinizing and doing careful analysis of the lizard, the scientists confirmed it is indeed a new species. Scientists have christened the new lizard as "Dalai Mountain blind lizard", or Dibamus dalaiensis, named after the mountain on which it was discovered.

Victoria Gill, BBC, reports "The blind reptile looks like a snake, but it is actually a lizard that has evolved to live underground - losing its legs to enable it to push through the soil by wriggling its body."

The lizard is believed to live underground as its natural habitat, which might explain for its lack of eyes or legs, as the reptile has adapted to its environment. Looking at a photo of the lizard, one can see how it might be easily be mistaken for snake with all of its similarities to the familiar slithering reptiles, however it does not have all the characteristics of a snake, such as a forked tongue. 

Not a lot is known about this lizard species, nor of many of the other creatures residing in this region of Cambodia. Up until the 1990s the area was closed off to research because it was formerly held by Khmer Rouge, the Communist movement that occurred in the country from 1975-79, and "was active as a guerrilla force for decades afterward" (National Geographic).

As a result scientists are just really, in recent years, beginning to uncover the wonders that reside in the Cardamom Mountains. Fauna & Flora International state a "wealth of unusual new [plant and animal] species" has been found. The organization is excited as Dr. Jenny Daltry, Senior Conservation Biologist states "not only a new species, but also the first reptile to be both discovered and formally described in a scientific journal by a Cambodian national."

Unfortunately the glory of discovery may be short lived as the area is under threats from industrialization as the logging business moves in and other events occur in the area according to National Georgraphic.

The scientists have published their exciting results in the April 21 edition of the journal,  Zootaxa

More about this author: Leigh Goessl

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