New ‘Moby Dick’ lizard species found

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iol sciteh jan 16 moby dick lizard AFP This handout picture released by the CNRS shows a new species of fossorial lizard from the Island of Madagascar called Sirenoscincus mobydick.

Montpellier, France - A new lizard species has been discovered in Madagascar and named “Moby Dick” mermaid skink - after the albino sperm whale imagined by Herman Melville - for its flipper-like forelimbs and unpigmented skin, France's National Centre for Scientific Research said on Tuesday.

The CNRS said the “Sirenoscincus mobydick” presents a unique combination of anatomical features that can be found in amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds.

The discovery, made by French, Malagasy, American and German researchers, was published in the Zoosystema journal at the end of December.

The centre said the “Moby Dick” lizard was discovered in the dry north-west forests of Madagascar.

Because of its life underground, the animal's skin has lost pigmentation and its eyes have almost disappeared. And although the lizard has retained forelimbs, its hindlimbs have completely disappeared.

The centre called it an “morphological organisation” reminiscent of cetaceans, the carnivorous marine mammals such as whales and dolphins. - Sapa-AFP

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