A new species of lizard with striking iridescent rainbow skin, a long tail and very short legs has been discovered in the rainforest in northeast Cambodia, conservationists announced Wednesday.

Scientists named the skink Lygosoma veunsaiensis to honour the Veun Sai-Siem Pang Conservation Area in Rattanakiri province where it was found, Conservation International (CI) said in a statement.

The lizard was discovered in 2010 in the remote and little-explored rainforest area during biological surveys led by Fauna & Flora International (FFI) in partnership with CI, the group said.

“These creatures are difficult to find because they spend so much of their life underground,” said Neang Thy, a Cambodian national working for FFI and the first herpetologist to see the new skink.

“Some similar species are known from only a few individuals. We were very lucky to find this one,” said Neang Thy.

The new species is unusual because it has very short limbs and a tail that is much longer than its main body. Its skin has a refracting quality to the scales that creates a rainbow-like effect in sunlight, the group said.

The lizard was the third new species in the last two years to be found in Veun Sai, following the discovery of a new type of bat and a gibbon.

Scientists have discovered a new species of sea snake in the Gulf of Carpenteria, a shallow sea enclosed on three sides by Australia, which they claim could provide important clues about evolution.

The snake, which is unique in having raised scales, has been given the scientific name Hydrophis donaldii and the common name “rough-scaled sea snake” to reflect the scalation, says a team at the University of Queensland.

Prof Bryan Fry, who led the team, said that Hydrophis donaldii had evaded earlier discovery as it prefers estuarine habitats which are poorly surveyed and also not targeted by commercial fisheries.

“We can see over 200 sea snakes in a single night's hunting, whereas sea snake populations have really crashed elsewhere through over-fishing removing their prey and also the snakes drowning in trawling nets,” Prof Fry said.

The scientists say the findings extend beyond simply discovering a rare animal. “All venomous animals are bio- resources and provided sources of many life-saving medications such as treatments for high-blood pressure and diabetes.

This reinforces why we need to conserve all of nature as the next billion dollar wonder-drug may come from as unlikely a source as sea snake venom,” Prof Fry said in a release. The discovery has been published in the Zootaxa journal.

More In: Science | Sci-Tech