Melbourne: Researchers have discovered a spectacularly coloured new species of flat lizard in Africa and named it after renowned British naturalist Sir David Attenborough.
A team of scientists, led by Dr Martin Whiting of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, named the lizard Platysaurus attenboroughi, after the 89-year-old broadcaster and naturalist.
Flat lizards belong to a lizard family, the Cordylidae, which is found only in Africa. While the majority of species in this family are live-bearing and most are brown or black (with some exceptions), the flat lizards stand out: they lay eggs and all are colourful.
The new species, from Richtersveld of the Northern Cape Province of South Africa and the Fish River Canyon region of southern Namibia, was formerly confused with P capensis from the Kamiesberg region of Namaqualand, South Africa.
"Genetic analysis based on one mtDNA and two nDNA loci found Platysaurus attenboroughi to be genetically divergent from P capensis and these species can also be differentiated by a number of scalation characters, colouration and their allopatric distributions," Whiting and his colleagues said.
"We thought it fitting the lizard be named after the world-famous naturalist after he made famous a closely related flat lizard species in the BBC series Life in Cold Blood," said Whiting.
Whiting along with colleagues at the Australian National University spent time with Attenborough in the field at Augrabies Falls National Park in South Africa where the BBC filmed Augrabies flat lizards in action.
"Flat lizards attracted my attention some years ago, and since then we have been working on understanding their social system, how colour functions in communication, and how the various species are related," Whiting said.
The new species was described in the journal Zootaxa.