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Germán Chávez and Diego Vásquez from the Centro de Ornitología y Biodiversidad (CORBIDI) in Peru have discovered a new colorful lizard which they named Potamites montanicola, or "mountain dweller". The new species was found in Cordillera de Vilcabamba and Apurimac river valley, the Cusco Region of Peru at altitude ranging from 1,600 to 2,100 meters. Their study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.
"The new discovery raises some questions", say the authors. This is the only member of the genus known to live at such altitude. It is yet unknown what biological mechanisms help the lizard to survive in this harsh environment, much colder than what it's relatives in the genus prefer. Scientists also believe the lizard may be nocturnal, which raises the question of how it maintains its body temperature during night time. In some cases, individuals were observed swimming in streams, which is rather unusual behavior for the members this genus.
“According to our field data, this species is very restricted to streams with fresh temperatures of 14 to 16 Celsius degrees,” Dr. Chávez explained. “The most of the specimens were observed at night, thus we believe that this species is nocturnal (active at night), but we can’t confirm this. We also found some individuals at day (some recently collected specimens). They were always spotted under rocks, probably with lower activity than at night when we found the specimens running or swimming.”
“The males have great colors on the vental region of the body. They can be light blue, electric blue with black spots or yellow with black spots, while the ventral region in females can be creamy white or light red. Males are longer than females.