The scientists were eating from at restaurant in Vietnam, when their curiosities were sparked as they wondered why all the lizards appeared to be female. The lizard species they found has now been confirmed as being new to the scientific world.
Lizards are a popular side dish in Vietnam, particularly along the Mekong Delta where they are served grilled with a salad. The new lizard is local to the area where the restaurant is and has been officially named.
Dr Ngo Van Tri, a scientist from the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, found the lizards being stored alive in a fish tank in the restaurant in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province. The new lizard is called Leiolepis ngovantrii after Dr Van Tri andin recognition of his discovery.
On studying the new lizard, it was found that the species is entirely female and they reproduce through a particularly interesting form of cloning known as parthenogenesis. Cloning in reptiles is not unknown and has been found to appear especially when a species of reptile is suffering from some environmental stresses.
After his discovery, Dr Van Tri sent photographs of the lizard to two colleagues at the Villanova University in Pennsylvania in America, who confirmed that they thought this was a new, all-female species of lizard. The two colleagues then decided to check out the dish themselves, so headed to Vietnam.
"When we finally got there, this crazy guy had gotten drunk and served them all to his customers," said Dr Lee Grismer during his interview by National Geographic News. "It's an entirely new lineage of life that was being eaten and sold in restaurants for food. It's not that they're not known; locals know all about them. It's just that they're not known to scientists," Dr Grismer said.
The species presents new opportunities to study and research how different species of lizards reproduce to form hybrids. The discovery has also prompted scientists all over the world to take a really good look at what they are eating.