It’s no lie! The adorable Pinocchio lizard, so-called because of its incredibly long horn, has been re-discovered in Ecuador after having been thought to be extinct for the last 50 years. As seen in the video below, this cute little lizard is just casually walking around, totally unaware that it has set the science community abuzz with excitement at its new unveiling.
Lead researcher Alejandro Arteaga said they found the creature asleep under a cozy blanket of dew, and were stunned to see it. Its real name is Anolis proboscis, but it’s nicknamed the Pinocchio lizard because of the extra long horn it sports on its snout. This horn is only seen in the males of this species, but scientists are unsure of precisely what function it serves and how. The male lizards have been observed moving their horns and brandishing them in the direction of females, so researchers think the horn is related to reproduction in some way, specifically as it relates to selection of the lizards’ mates.
Jonathan Losos, a herpetologist at Harvard University, says the horns on the Pinocchio lizards have a role to play in “either competition among males for females or mates, or female choice of males.” Not only have the researchers found one lizard, but a large and thriving population in numerous locations. Scientists have recently been learning even more about the lizards’ behaviors and characteristics. They have found that the horn is bendable and that the male can move it whenever he wants. Since it bends down slightly at the very end, the male is able to move it upwards when eating food so it’s not in the way.
Losos and his team performed an all-out sting operation to catch sight of these lizards in their natural habitat, setting up camp to check out what these elusive creatures did during the day. His team located the group of lizards at night and then returned to the same spot right before the sun rose to catch the lizards going about their daily routines.
Losos explains why it had previously been so very difficult to locate these animals and why they have been thought to be extinct for so long. As it turns out, they’re very private and mysterious indeed. Says Losos:
…It became obvious why they went undetected for 40 years and are so rarely seen. The reason: they live an extraordinarily cryptic lifestyle, moving extremely slowly, creeping along, step-by-step, never proceeding at a pace that could be categorized as anything faster than a crawl. Add to that the fact they are incredibly well camouflaged in the thick yellow and green vegetation in which they occur, and that they usually occur high off the ground, and it’s no wonder few people ever see them. Indeed, when we showed some to locals in Mindo, most said they had never seen one before.
Scientists are thrilled to find out it’s no lie. The tiny, adorable Pinocchio lizard is not extinct after all. Now, the researchers have their work cut out for them as they continue to observe and record the habits of these cute little creatures.
By: Rebecca Savastio