Dwarf chameleon (Brookesia exarmata)

Dwarf chameleon, Brookesia exarmata, side view
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Dwarf chameleon fact file

Dwarf chameleon description

GenusBrookesia (1)

The dwarf chameleon (Brookesia exarmata), only described to science in 1996 (3), is one of the smallest of the diminutive Malagasy leaf chameleons (Brookesia species) (2), which makes it one of the smallest reptiles in the world (4). Its body is rather cylindrical, with a small, flat and relatively narrow head, and a short and slender snout. The skin, in shades of brown and beige, enables this chameleon to blend into the leaf litter, and occasionally a lichen-like or striped pattern is present, providing even more effective camouflage (2) (3).  

Total length: 45 mm (2)
Tail length: 20 mm (2)
0.5 g (2)

Dwarf chameleon biology

Although largely terrestrial, the dwarf chameleon sleeps in low vegetation, on stems or leaves around 15 centimetres above the ground (4). The life-history of Brookesia chameleons is poorly understood, but copulation and egg-deposition has been observed for the dwarf chameleon during February (3).


Dwarf chameleon range

The dwarf chameleon occurs only on a high plateau in western central Madagascar, where it has been recorded in the Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park and adjacent forests, on the western slopes of the Antsingy Forest (2) (3) (5) (6)


Dwarf chameleon habitat

This species inhabits an area of deciduous primary forest, at elevations of 100 to 300 metres (2). This area is characterised by little or no precipitation during the dry season, when trees lose their leaves and the undergrowth diminishes, but during the rainy season, from October to April, the forest is rejuvenated (2).


Dwarf chameleon status

The dwarf chameleon is listed on Appendix II of CITES (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered


Dwarf chameleon threats

There are few threats to the dwarf chameleon. There is very low commercial demand for this tiny chameleon and currently no legal export quota for this species exists. However, the continued degradation of the dry forest in and around Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park is cause for concern because even small changes to forest structure might have a negative impact on this species (5).


Dwarf chameleon conservation

The dwarf chameleon occurs in the Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park and probably also the Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve (6) (7). Protected areas provide this species with some protection, but do not completely eliminate the threats of illegal harvesting and habitat degradation as a result of fires, cattle damage and timber exploitation (5) (7). The dwarf chameleon is also listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that trade in this species should be carefully controlled in order to be compatible with their survival (1)

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For further information on the dwarf chameleon see:

  • Nečas, P. and Schmidt, W. (2004) Stump-tailed chameleons. Miniature Dragons of the Rainforest. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt.


Authenticated (07/03/11) by Dr Richard K.B. Jenkins, Madagasikara Voakajy and Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent.



A plant that sheds its leaves at the end of the growing season.
Primary forest
Forest that has remained undisturbed for a long time and has reached a mature condition.


  1. CITES (July, 2007)
  2. Nečas, P. and Schmidt, W. (2004) Stump-tailed chameleons. Miniature Dragons of the Rainforest. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt.
  3. Schimmenti, G. and Jesu, R. (1996) Brookesia exarmata sp. nov. (Reptilia, Chamaeleonidae) a new dwarf chameleon from the limestone outcrops of western Madagascar. Italian Journal of Zoology, 63: 193-197.
  4. Randrianantoandro, J.C., Randrianavelona, R., Andriantsimanarilafy, R.R., Fideline, H.E., Rakotondravony, D. and Jenkins, R.K.B. (2007) Roost site characteristics of sympatric dwarf chameleons (genus Brookesia) from western Madagascar. Amphibia-Reptilia, 28: 577-581.
  5. Randrianantoandro, J.C., Randrianavelona, R., Andriantsimanarilafy, R.R., Fideline, H.E., Rakotondravony, D., Randrianasolo, M., Ravelomanantsoa, H.L. and Jenkins, R.K.B. (2008) Identifying priority areas for dwarf chameleon (Brookesia spp.) conservation in Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, Madagascar. Oryx, 42: 578-573.
  6. Bora, P., Randrianantoandro, J.C., Randrianavelona, R., Hantalalaina, E.F., Andriantsimanarilafy, R.R., Rakotondravony, D., Ramilijaona, O.R., Vences, M., Jenkins, R.K.B., Glaw, F. and Kohler, J. (2010) The herpetofauna of the Tsingy de Bemaraha plateau, western Madagascar: checklist, biogeography and conservation. Herpelogical Conservation and Biology, 5: 111-125.
  7. UNEP-WCMC: Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve (February, 2008)

Image credit

Dwarf chameleon, Brookesia exarmata, side view  
Dwarf chameleon, Brookesia exarmata, side view

© Jörn Köhler

Jörn Köhler
Department of Zoology
Hessisches Landesmuseum
Friedensplatz 1
Fax: +49 (6151) 165765


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