Perched on a sand dune in Iran, a camouflaged creature blended into the isolated landscape. But not well enough. Nearby scientists noticed the long-tailed animal — and discovered a new species.
Researchers ventured into the desert of South Khorasan province on wildlife surveys in 2010 and 2021, according to a study published Nov. 10 in the journal Zootaxa. They were searching for lizards.
Around some sand dunes, researchers found 12 long-tailed lizards, the study said. They took a closer look and realized the animals were in fact a new species: Eremias pseudofasciata, or the false striped racerunner lizard.
The false striped racerunner lizard is considered “medium sized,” reaching up to about 7 inches in total length, researchers said. Its tail is ”about twice the length of (its) body” and yellowish in color.
Photos show the new species of lizard. It has a beige, tan coloring with a lighter underside and several darker brown stripes running down its back. Its arms and legs have a polka-dot-like pattern. In its sandy habitat, the lizard blends in quite well.
Researchers said they named the new species after another species of racerunner lizard that it resembles, Eremias fasciata. The name pseudofasciata is a combination of the Latin words for “false” and “bearing longitudinal stripes (or) lines,” the study’s co-author Nikolay Poyarkov told McClatchy News.
So far, the false striped racerunner lizard has only been found in one area near Boshruyeh, researchers said. The city is in South Khorasan province and about 370 miles southeast of Tehran.
The new species was identified by its size, scale pattern, coloring and other subtle physical features, the study said. DNA analysis found the new species had between about 8% and 21% genetic divergence from other racerunner lizards.
The research team included Valentina Orlova, Eskandar Rasegar-Pouyani, Khosrow Rajabizadeh, Hossein Nabizadeh, Poyarkov, Daniel Melnikov and Roman Nazarov. Researchers also discovered another new species of racerunner lizard with a hieroglyphic-like pattern.
Racerunner lizards are named for their “ability to run at impressive speeds,” according to Britannica. “Some species can run almost 28 km (17 miles) per hour over short distances.”