May 28, 2007
A previously unknown species of legless lizard as been discovered in a remote Indian forest, reports the Associated Press.
Sushil Kumar Dutta, leader of a team of researchers from NGO Vasundhra and the North Orissa University, found the 7-inch long creature in the forests of Khandadhar near Raurkela in Orissa state, about 625 miles southeast of New Delhi.
"Preliminary scientific study reveals that the lizard belongs to the genus Sepsophis," Dutta told the Associated Press. "The lizard is new to science and is an important discovery. It is not found anywhere else in the world."
The closest relatives of the newly discovered species are found in Sri Lanka and South Africa.
Scientists say limbless forms of lizards have evolved independently several times, probably to facilitate underground movement. Most limbless lizards live under leaf litter or in upper levels of soil.
Limbless lizards are not snakes. They can be distinguished by their external ear holes and flat, non-forked tongues