New Species: Iridescent Short-legged Lizard Discovered in Northeast Cambodia


New lizard species discovered by Rapid Assessment Program in Sai-Siem Pang Conservation Area

Phnom Penh, Cambodia — Scientists announced today the discovery of a never-before-seen skink in Cambodia which is characterized by its very short legs, long tail and striking iridescent skin. The skink was found during a Rapid Assesment Program expedition in northeast Cambodia led by Fauna & Flora International (FFI), in partnership with Conservation International (CI) between February and March of 2010.

The skink, described in a paper published this month by Zootaxa, was named Lygosoma veunsaiensis to honor the Veun Sai-Siem Pang Conservation Area in Ratanakiri where it was found. It is the latest in a string of new species discovered in this area, including Walston's tube-nosed bat (Murina walstoni) and the northern yellow-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus annamensis).

The skink is unusual in having extremely short limbs and a very long tail, considerably longer than its body. In sunlight a refracting quality to the scales creates a rainbow-like effect along its body.

"This is the third new species in the last two years to be discovered in Veun Sai," said Ben Rawson the Conservation International site manager. "Last year a new type of bat was found here, and in 2010 a new gibbon species was described. Naming this new skink Lygosoma veunsaiensis is a nice tribute to the area's biological value."

"These creatures are difficult to find because they spend so much of their life underground," said Neang Thy, a Cambodian national working for FFI and the first herpetologist to see the new skink. "Some similar species are known from only a few individuals. We were very lucky to find this one."

"Three decades of conflict effectively prevented herpetological investigations until the late 1990s, but Cambodia is proving a biodiversity hot spot for new discoveries, especially new reptiles," said Peter Geissler from Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig in Germany, and one of the authors who described the skink. "Now we have a chance to uncover many of the things that have previously been missed".


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Download photos of the new iridescent skink

Photo credit: © Gabor Csorba

Preview the scientific article from Zootaxa (including abstract and citation)

For more information, contact:

Neang Thy
Fauna & Flora International,
Mobile: +855 (0) 16671771 (Cambodia)
Ben Rawson Ph.D.
Veun Sai-Siem Pang Conservation Area Manager, CI-Cambodia
Mobile Ph: Ph: +855 (0) 12657252 (Cambodia, 13-17 Feb)
+84 (0) 915095342 (Vietnam- 17 Feb onward)

Emmeline Johansen
Regional Communications Manager - Asia Pacific, Conservation International
Mobile (+64) (0) 277793401 (New Zealand)

Note to editors:

Conservation International (CI) — Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the long term well-being of people. Founded in 1987 and marking its 25th anniversary in 2012, CI has headquarters in the Washington DC area, and 900 employees working in nearly 30 countries on four continents, plus 1,000+ partners around the world. For more information, please visit at, or on Facebook or Twitter.

About Fauna & Flora International (FFI) — FFI protects threatened species and ecosystems worldwide, choosing solutions that are sustainable, based on sound science and take account of human needs. Operating in more than 40 countries worldwide – mainly in the developing world – FFI saves species from extinction and habitats from destruction, while improving the livelihoods of local people. Founded in 1903, FFI is the world's longest established international conservation body and a registered charity.