World's Smallest Goanna Lizard Discovered in Western Australia

Posted on December 30, 2014

Dampier Peninsula Goanna

The world's smallest species of goanna lizard has been discovered in the Kimberly region of Western Australia. The new species has a maximum known size of 23 centimeters (9 inches) and 16 grams (.03 pounds).

The new species highlights the wide size range found in the goanna family. The goanna family includes much larger species such as the giant Komodo Dragon, which can reach 3 meters in length. The new lizard has been named Dampier Peninsula Goanna. Its scientific name is Varanus sparnus. It has an elongate body and short prehensile tail. The lizard was discovered near a spinifex clump by Roy Teale and Greg Harold from Biota Environmental Sciences and classified by Dr. Paul Doughty, curator of reptiles at the WA Museum.

Dr. Doughty told ABC News Australia, "We estimate from the genetic information [that the species] diverged roughly about the same time that chimpanzees diverged from human beings."

Dr. Doughty also says that there are now over 1,000 species of reptiles in Australia, which is a 10th of the world's reptile diversity.

ABC News Australia says one of the specimens, named Pokey, is living at the WA Museum. A research paper about the new species can be found here.

Photo: WA Museum