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Labord’s Chameleon (Furcifer labordi): the world’s shortest-lived vertebrate?


An article published in the June 30, 2008 issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences documents a heretofore unknown vertebrate life-history strategy…2/3 of the Labord’s chameleon’s life is spent within the egg.

Native to southwestern Madagascar, this tiny lizard lives for only 4-5 months, after an incubation period of 7-9 months.  The entire life cycle is synchronized to an extraordinary degree, with nearly all members of the species hatching, breeding and dying in concert.  Uniquely for a lizard, no adults survive until the next generation hatches…all individuals hatch in November, mate in January, and die shortly thereafter.  The time period from conception to death – usually less than 1 year – is perhaps the shortest known for any vertebrate.

Researchers are trying to identify the genetic or hormonal process that regulates the lifespan.  An understanding of this phenomenon may point to ways of controlling cell death in humans.


You can read about field research projects dealing with this and related chameleons at:


About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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