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Farther Apart

A species of small chameleons thought to have been extinct has been found alive despite deforestation of its home range, though a new analysis has uncovered a disruption in gene flow between the now-isolated populations, CNN reports.

It adds that Chapman's pygmy chameleon (Rhampholeon chapmanorum) is native to Malawi and was thought to have gone extinct. The South African National Biodiversity Institute's Krystal Tolley and her colleagues used satellite imagery to analyze tracts of forest where the chameleons live to find that 80 percent of the forest has been destroyed since 1984. But, as they report in the journal Onyx, they found Chapman's pygmy chameleons still living in those patches of forest.

By collected DNA samples from Chapman's pygmy chameleons' tails, the researchers examined the genetic diversity of the remaining population. While they report that their genetic diversity is on par with that of other chameleons and small reptiles, the researchers note that gene flow between the chameleons' different forest patches has declined and that their genetic diversity may soon also be affected.

"The forest loss requires immediate attention before this species reaches a point from which it cannot return. Urgent conservation action is needed, including halting of forest destruction and recovery of habitat to promote connectivity," Tolley says in a statement.