Jul 4, 2008 10:41 AM
A new chameleon species has what may be the briefest, oddest life cycle of any four-legged animal. Researchers were puzzled to find during repeated trips to southwestern Madagascar, home to Labord's chameleon (Furcifer labordi), that the lizards quickly went from adulthood to dead, with no juveniles or other stragglers. After studying about 400 of the critters, they pieced together the life cycle: The chameleons reproduce in January and February; the offspring hatch simultaneously in November and begin a mad dash to sexual maturity, growing up to 0.1 inch (2.6 millimeters) daily. After 60 days, males have tripled or quadrupled in body size and are ready to breed. All told, the lizards live for a mere four to five months after hatching. Tetrapods (four-legged animals), including mammals, birds, lizards and amphibians, typically live two to 10 years—with notable exceptions, such as long-lived humans and turtles. Researchers report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA that this may explain why some chameleons die so rapidly in captivity.
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