Researchers in Australia have discovered and defined some new lizard species on Wednesday.
Set up by a National Recovery Team from the Department of Environment, the year-long project wanted to find out if the grassland earless dragon (Tympanocryptis pinguicolla) from southeastern Australia was one single species.
"Over the last year, 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," said Dr. Jane Melville, author of the study from the Museum Victoria.
The grassland earless dragon is a tiny green, brown and yellow patterned lizard weighing only about eight grams.
Being a master of camouflage, it is so difficult to find that the lizard went dark for about 30 years before being rediscovered in 1991 by ecologist Will Osborne of the University of Canberra and his colleagues.
While the discovery should give conservationists a much better understanding of how to protect the creatures, one of the four – the Victorian grassland earless dragon – has not been sighted since 1969, sparking fears it may be the first ever reptile to become extinct on the Australian mainland in modern times.
With researchers now trying desperately to locate the species, Melville said "I'm optimistic. I really hope they find it."