Natalie Angier in The New York Times:
Sure, Michael Phelps may have snapped a string of Olympic records like so many Rice Krispies in milk, but what was this child of Poseidon up against, anyway? Elite human athletes from 250 countries. A small, speckled, asparagus-green chameleon of Madagascar, by contrast, holds a world speed record among just about all of the nearly 30,000 different animals equipped with four limbs and a backbone. Admittedly, it’s not a record many of us would aspire to best. As researchers recently reported in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the entire life span of the Furcifer labordi chameleon — from the moment of conception to development in the egg, hatching, maturation, breeding and right through to its last little lizardly thud to the ground — clocks in at barely a year.
That hypercondensed biography, the scientists said, may well make the chameleon the shortest-lived tetrapod on Earth, a creature chronologically more like a butterfly or a sea squirt than like the other reptiles, frogs, birds and mammals with which it is taxonomically bundled. Equally bizarre, said Christopher J. Raxworthy, an author of the new report, the chameleon spends some two-thirds of its abbreviated existence as an egg buried in sand, with a mere 16 to 20 weeks allocated to all post-shellular affairs.