The Magma Lizard is a small species of lizard found near the active volcano Tavurvur in Papau New Guineau. Its name comes from the fact that the lizard can survive the temperatures of the magma. In 2005, geologist George Thursday discovered the Magma Lizard, when he was studying Tavurvur’s rock formations. Thursday found the Magma Lizard swimming in the lava.
The Magma Lizard’s diet is consists of minerals found in the igneous rocks at the bottom of Tavurvur. The lizard dives down to the bottom of the volcano, and uses its sharp teeth to mine out the minerals.
Until 2009, scientists were unable to figure out what makes the Magma Lizard able to survive in the heat of the magma. However, a bacterium called Protstium was found circulating in the lizard’s blood stream that serves as a cooling system. The bacteria produces enzymes that provide cooling, which counter the 1000 degree Celsius heat of the magma. According to the Center of Strange Species (CSS), the Magma Lizard is the first species to ever be able to survive in such intense conditions.
The Magma Lizard evolved from Vavus genus, which originated in eastern Australia over 30 million years ago. It migrated to Tavurvur and evolved the Protstium bacteria due to mutations in genes.
The Magma Lizard has similar color changing abilities to chameleons. However, along with being able to mimic the color of their surroundings, Magma Lizards skin also appears to be moving. Because they blend into the lava almost perfectly, they were able to hide from human knowledge for so many years. Special pigmentation allows for this change in skin color and movement.
Because the Magma Lizards have great sensory abilities, it is almost impossible to catch one. That fact with the combination of their diet, only 2 zoos in the world have Magma lizards on display.