Named ‘mountain dweller’, it is the highest-altitude living member of its genus
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.
"Further studies are needed to reveal its biology, population structure and conservation status, and outline its overall distribution", Chávez concludes.
Chávez G, Vásquez D (2012) A new species of Andean semiaquatic lizard of the genus Potamites (Sauria, Gymnophtalmidae) from southern Peru. ZooKeys 168: 31. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.168.2048