Here Be Dragons: Analysis Reveals New Species in Smaug Lizard Group (Florida Museum of Natural History)

Here Be Dragons: Analysis Reveals New Species in Smaug Lizard Group

Smaug, the deadly dragon in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” has a few living relatives. With dense, alligator-like armor, these small, real-life dragon lizards are rock-crevice recluses mostly confined to mountaintops in southern Africa.

Now, herpetologists Michael Bates, a curator at South Africa’s National Museum in Bloemfontein, and Edward Stanley of the Florida Museum of Natural History have discovered a ninth species of dragon lizard in the genus Smaug, previously mistaken for a similar-looking species, S. barbertonensis.

The new species, a heavily plated dark brown lizard with pale yellow bands, has been named Smaug swazicus, or the Swazi dragon lizard, in honor of the country of Eswatini, where most of the species’ range is located. Up to 13 inches from snout to tail tip, S. swazicus is an unusually big lizard for the region.

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