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Page last updated at 11:09 GMT, Tuesday, 10 May 2011 12:09 UK
Blind legless lizard species discovered in Cambodia
By Victoria Gill
Science and nature reporter, BBC News

New species of lizard (Dibamus dalaiensis) discovered by Fauna and Flora International scientists in Cambodia (Image: Jeremy Holden/FFI)
The creature looks like a worm or a snake, but is actually a legless lizard

Scientists have discovered a new species of lizard in Cambodia, which has neither eyes nor legs.

Neang Thy, a zoologist with the Ministry of Environment in Cambodia and Fauna & Flora International (FFI), found the worm-like creature while he was exploring the Cardamom Mountains.

He noticed it when he overturned a log and managed to capture and examine it.

Dr Thy and his colleagues have now confirmed that it is a species new to science.

They published their conclusion in the journal Zootaxa.

"At first I thought it was a common species," said Mr Neang, who has studied reptiles and amphibians in Cambodia for almost a decade.

But he quickly realised it was something he had not seen before.

The species has been named the Dalai Mountain blind lizard (Dibamus dalaiensis), after the mountain on which it was found.

There are actually lots of legless lizards - such as the slow worm in the UK
Dr Jenny Daltry, Fauna and Flora International

Dr Jenny Daltry, a senior biologist with FFI, said it had taken close to a year to make sure that this strange animal was definitely a new species.

"They had to go back through all of the scientific descriptions of all other species... and look at museum specimens," she told BBC News.

"What's really exciting about this is that it's the first time a Cambodian national has discovered a new species, gathered all of the scientific evidence and published the finding."

Underground reptile

The blind reptile looks like a snake, but it is actually a lizard that has evolved to live underground - losing its legs to enable it to push through the soil by wriggling its body.

"There are actually lots of legless lizards - such as the slow worm in the UK," explained Dr Daltry.

Also, unlike snakes, this creature does not have a forked tongue.

"Most snakes only have one lung, whereas lizards have two.

"Also most lizards are able to blink and snakes can't," Dr Daltry continued. "Although this new [underground] lizard has no eyes at all."

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