Scientists have found that a previously unknown lizard to science is a popular food in Vietnam.

The self-cloning lizard named Leiolepis ngovantrii does not mate with a male lizard, but reproduces via cloning. "The Vietnamese have been eating these for time on end," said herpetologist L. Lee Grismer of La Sierra University in Riverside, California, who helped identify the animal.

"In this part of the Mekong Delta [in southeastern Vietnam], restaurants have been serving this undescribed species, and we just stumbled across it." The lizard is an all-female species. Only one percent of all lizards are able to reproduce on their own by cloning.

The discovery was made by Ngo Van Tri of the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, when he found live lizards for sale in a restaurant in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province. He found that every single lizard looked similar.

Grismer and his son flew to Ho Chi Minh City, spoke to the restaurant owner to reserve the lizards and drove eight hours on a motorcycle.

"When we finally got there, this crazy guy had gotten drunk and served them all to his customers," recalled Lee Grismer, who has received funding for other projects from the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration.

They eventually could find 70 lizards, which were similar, with help from school children.