Three new species of dragons have been discovered in the tropical Andes. The zoologists who found them call them woodlizards, but seriously, look at them, they're dragons. Sadly, the discoverers didn't choose to name any of the species Daenerys, or even Toothless. Instead, the names were inspired by the location of discovery, a description of one species' scales and a financial sponsor—but we still know they're dragons.
The new species are all members of the Enyalioides, a genus of iguana. Like other woodlizards, the new discoveries are diurnal creatures native to tropical rainforests. The tropical Andes is a global biodiversity hotspot, possibly the richest on Earth, which seems an appropriate place to host such creatures.
Credit: Luis A. Coloma. E. altotambo
“During the last few years we doubled the number of known species of woodlizards, showing that the diversity of these conspicuous reptiles had been underestimated,” said lead author Omar Torres-Carvajal of the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador. “That more than half of the diversity of a group of large, dragon-looking reptiles from South America has been discovered in recent years should be heard by people in charge of conservation and funding agencies."
The three new species are named E. altotambo from northwestern Ecuador, E. anisolepis from southern Ecuador and northern Peru, and E. sophiarothschildae from northeastern Peru. The species are described in great detail in Zookeys, including their relationship to previously identified species.
While we're all hoping one of these species will not only turn out to be capable of flight, but grow large enough to ride, things are not looking good in that regard. The largest species, E. sophiarothschildae, has a body only 13.5 cm (5.3 inches) long, although to be fair the tail is not far off twice the body length.
Little is know about how common or widespread the new species are, but only E. anisolepis was found over an extended area, a serious concern in light of the rapid destruction of the rainforests in the region.
The paper does not discuss what to feed your dragon, but based on their known relatives, larger insects probably have grounds to be worried.
While it is wonderful to welcome these new species to the book of life, none of them are as convincingly dragonish as E. oshaughnessyi, a species known since the 19th century that comes equipped with red eyes. We're also not sure any of these images can match the horned wood lizard (E. palpebralis), another species known for more than a century.
Credit: Andreas Schlüter via wikimedia commons. A horned wood lizard.