Stenocercus canastra, a newly discovered lizard species found in Serra da Canastra National Park by Cristiano Nogueira. Image by Cristiano Nogueira. When Cristiano Nogueira first spied the creature hiding in an underground burrow, he thought he had found a “lost species.” Stenocercus tricristatus, a diminutive, distinctively-spotted, prehistoric-looking lizard, hadn’t been seen for 175 years, and was known to science by just a single specimen kept in a drawer at the Paris Museum of Natural History. An infamous Danish expat collector, M. Claussen, had collected it somewhere in central Brazil back then, but no one knew exactly where. Nogueira, a herpetologist and biogeographer, had traveled to Serra da Canastra National Park in Brazil’s southeastern Cerrado savanna just after a fire burned through: it’s the best time to find animals that are normally concealed by grasses in this rocky, highlands landscape. Upon closer study back in the lab, he and his colleagues determined the animal’s true identity. “It wasn’t the lost species,” Nogueira said. “This beautiful spiny lizard, with two horns on top of its head, was a new species.” That was in 2019. Remarkably, two decades into the 21st century, scientists are still discovering previously unknown species across central Brazil’s Cerrado biome. In 2000, when Nogueira first proposed field research there as a graduate student, his professors told him he wouldn’t find much. “That was a vision based on poor data and poor sampling,” he said. “It was considered a wasteland.” Ancient plateau and savanna in the western portion of Bahia state. The…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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