chameleon (Chamaeleonidae), is a reptile which is part of the iguana suborder. These colorful lizards are known as one of the few animals that can change the color of their skin. However, it is a misconception for the chameleon to change color to suit its surroundings.

Species

According to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), there are 171 species of chameleons. We will talk about the most famous species:

Panther Chameleon

  • Family: Chamaeleonidae
  • Scientific name: Furcifer pardalis
  • Distribution: North and East of Madagascar
  • Diet: Crickets, beetle larvae, grasshopper, mealworms, waxworms

The vibrant colors of the panther chameleon make it the most beautiful and striking lizard in the animal kingdom. Males have an average length of 50 centimeters and females are around 43 cm. The males are more colorful and look more striking than the females.

In case the female panther chameleon has laid eggs many times or is carrying eggs, it will turn a dark brown or black color to indicate that it is not interested in mating. The half-life of this fascinating species is about 10 years. The females, after laying the eggs, live for 2 to 3 years.

Fischer's chameleon

  • Family: Chamaeleonidae
  • Scientific name: Kinyongia fischeri
  • Distribution: Nguru, Tanzania
  • Diet: Crickets, cockroachesgiant worms mice

This species has a clear difference between its male and female members based on their size. The males are larger, reaching a length of 40 centimeters and have an impressive horn of almost 3 centimeters that extends from the forehead. Females are smaller in length, their maximum length is 35-40 centimeters. They are erroneously assumed to have no horns, but females do have tiny horns, which extend only one-eighth out of their heads.

It is a resistant reptile, which is used to living in conditions of high humidity and high temperatures. Females lay 10 to 20 eggs in a clutch. The eggs take around 5-6 months to hatch, which is a fairly quick process, compared to other chameleon species.

Helmet chameleon

  • Family: Chamaeleonidae
  • Scientific name: Trioceros hoehnelii
  • Distribution: East Africa, Uganda and Kenya
  • Diet: Little insects y Spiders.

This medium-sized chameleon has a wide range of colors. It often shows a dark coloration, when basking in the sun, as darker colors can absorb maximum heat. Males are larger than females.

They have a single horn, a serrated back and small spikes on the neck. Females have a wider cap and tail. While on display during courtship, males display bright colors to compete with other males. The pair remains together until the end of the breeding season and is separated immediately after the babies are born. When capturing its prey, the chameleon can extend its tongue to a length equivalent to that of its body.

Jackson's trio

  • Family: Chamaeleonidae
  • Scientific name: Trioceros jacksonii
  • Distribution: Kenya and Tanzania
  • Diet: Small insects

Jackson's trioceros are medium-sized lizards that grow to a maximum length of 30 inches. The half-life of this species varies, but males tend to live longer than females. Young people reach sexual maturity in 5 months.

The gestation period lasts up to 5-6 months, and after that, the females give birth to 8-10 live young. These reptiles are bright green, but there are cases in which their colors have been blue and yellow. Depending on their mood, external temperature and health conditions, they change color.

Trioceros melleri

This is one of the largest chameleon species, reaching up to 60 centimeters long and weighing around 600 grams. The females are shorter than the males and have small dorsal ridges.

The flanks of this chameleon are brown, black, yellow or dark green. The chameleon has a deep green color with white stripes all over its body. You can change its color to different shades of green, black, and other different colors. The female lays about 80 eggs in a clutch, and the newborns are 10 centimeters long. The average life of these reptiles can reach up to 12 years.

Chamaeleo namaquensis

The Namaquensis has amazing adaptations, and is well adapted to survive harsh desert conditions. It darkens in the shade, to absorb more heat during colder nights, and turns gray during the day. The female lays 20 eggs, which take around 100 days to hatch.

It is quick to catch prey. Due to food shortages in deserts, they don't want to let their food escape. Common predators of this chameleon are eagles, jackals, and hawks.

It can spread its toes, which helps it to crawl faster on the ground.

Parson's chameleon

  • Family: Chamaeleonidae
  • Scientific name: Calumma parsonii
  • Distribution: East and North of Madagascar
  • Diet: Small insects

They are the second largest species. The two subspecies, Calumma parsonii y Calumma p. cristifer they can reach lengths of 68 and 48 centimeters respectively.

The female lays 50 eggs once every two years. These eggs take about a year to hatch. As soon as the eggs hatch, the young are left alone to survive in the wild. In some cases their eggs take two years to hatch. The length of the tongue is greater than that of the body. They are often found in running water. The lifespan of a parish chameleon is seven years.

Pygmy chameleon or Rieppeleon brevicaudatus

  • Family: Chamaeleonidae
  • Scientific name: Rhampholeon brevicaudatus
  • Distribution: Usambara, Uluguru Mountains of Tanzania
  • Diet: Small insects

These are small chameleons, reaching 7 centimeters long. Most are brown in color. They usually change color as it helps them blend into their surroundings. When they are stressed or angry, they turn a dark color.

They resemble a dry leaf, and often take on this appearance while sleeping in the open air. Based on their emotions, they can change their color to green, orange, black, and brown.

It has a tongue longer than its body, which allows it to catch smaller insects. They have eyes that can move independently and explore their surroundings. These chameleons are also known as leafy bearded chameleons or bearded pygmy chameleons, because they have a beard (a few raised scales) under their mouth.

Yemen chameleon or veiled chameleon

  • Family: Chamaeleonidae
  • Scientific name: Chamaeleo calyptratus
  • Distribution: Yemen and Saudi Arabia
  • Diet: Leaves, fruits and flowers

This is without doubt the most recognized chameleon of all. The environment of a veiled chameleon determines its coloration. The chameleon is green in color, but changes to a dark lime or red color, if there is a slight change in its mood and surroundings.

Males have spurs on their hind legs, which grow as they mature. Both males and females have hooves on their heads. Males reach a length of up to 60 centimeters and females grow up to 30 centimeters. Males display bold colors to compete with other males and attract females, who lay 20 to 70 eggs in each clutch.

The ability to change color based on their emotional state and the surrounding temperatures make these invertebrates special. They have excellent adaptations, and are known for living solitary lives. They are less active and often remain immobile and wait for prey to pass. Different types of chameleons have caught people's attention, and they are often called exotic pets. However, these lizards are born wild, and therefore owners must provide an environment as close as possible to their natural habitat, to ensure the longevity of these beautiful creatures.

Features

The Chameleon has a body that is broad and appears to be swollen. They have a narrow head so you can see their shoulders from the front. Their eyes are wide open on the sides of their heads and their tongues are very wide and long. They sway from side to side when walking in a gait that appears to be quite uncomfortable.

Many people do not know that the Chameleon is equipped with a prehensile tail. This allows them to grab things and hold onto objects with their tails. The body of this lizard is well built for climbing and for walking along the thin branches of the trees. Some subspecies are only 3 centimeters long and others can reach 60 centimeters.

Most chameleons have a prehensile tail that they use to wrap around tree branches. Their legs have large toes that help them to hold onto branches, the tongue is propelled by incredible speed: it takes 0,07 seconds for the tongue to reach the victim. Its tongue can be 1,5 to 2 times longer than its body (excluding the tail). The tongue expands at its end and becomes a suction cup after catching the insect. They also use their long tail when moving in trees to grab a branch and secure their position (for balance when needed).

In addition to changing the color of the skin, chameleons have another characteristic that no other animal has. Their eyes can move independently of each other, allowing them to look in two different directions at the same time. Chameleons have full 360-degree vision and can quickly focus their eyes and enlarge what they are looking at like a camera lens.

We can distinguish the eyes of the chameleon.

Chameleons have very good eyesight and are capable of detecting small insects that are between 5 and 10 meters away. They are also capable of detecting ultraviolet light.

Chameleons do not have open ears or outer ears, but they are not deaf. They can detect sounds in the frequency range of 200 to 600 Hz.

Males and females don't always look the same. Males tend to have more "ornaments," such as horns, nails and nasal bumps, which are normally used when the male defends his territory.

Behavior

Chameleons are highly solitary animals. In fact, most of the time, the females do not want the males to approach them. During the rare moments when the female is willing to be touched, the male will come closer to mate. A brighter colored chameleon is more likely to convince a female to mate than a duller colored male.

Although chameleons are not social animals, they tend to stick together and even mate more intensely when exposed to ultraviolet light.

These small land animals are more likely to have a daytime activity.

Size

The largest chameleon is the Parson's chameleon (Calumma parsonii), according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. It can grow up to 69.5 centimeters long. The Malagasy, also known as the Oustalet's chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti), it is also very large and grows up to 60 cm long.

The smallest chameleon has a special distinction and it is also one of the smallest vertebrates ever discovered. He Brookesia (Brookesia) grows to just 16 millimeters and can sit comfortably on the head of a match.

Unlike other animals, chameleons continue to grow throughout their lives. As their old skin becomes too small, they shed it to pieces, unlike snakes that shed their skin in one go.

The color of the chameleon's skin

Changing skin color is an important part of chameleon communication. According to the San Diego Zoo, a chameleon's skin changes color in response to its emotions, such as anger or fear, changes in light, temperature, or humidity.

The brighter the color, the more dominant the male is, and the more attractive he is to females. A submissive male is usually brown or gray in color. Females use their colors to accept or reject a suitor, and their color can also indicate that they are pregnant.

A new study has found that chameleons can quickly change color by adjusting special cells, called iridophor cells, in each layer. Chameleons can change the structural arrangement of the top layer of cells by relaxing or exciting the skin, leading to a change in color, the researchers found.

Most people believe that chameleons change color to blend in with the environment. In reality, the color change is the result of the change in mood (when they are angry or aggressive), the temperature, the light and the humidity in their environment. Cells equipped with pigments used for color change are called chromatóforos.

Habitat

They normally live in trees or shrubs, although some species live on the ground. For example, him Brookesia superciliaris It lives in dead leaves on the forest floor, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

This species of lizard seems to be the best in warmer places. However, its habitat ranges from tropical jungles to the driest places. They are very adaptable lizards and with so many subspecies that you will find them in a wide spectrum of places in the wild.

Distribution

Chameleons live in Madagascar, Africa, Spain, Portugal, and Asia in rainforests, savannas, semi-deserts, and steppes.

Food

The chameleon's diet is mainly based on insects and birds. To catch their prey, they crawl very slowly. Once prey is within reach, the tongue shoots out and attaches to the insect. Their tongues can be twice as long as their bodies when they reach out to catch prey, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. The insect returns to the lizard's mouth to be digested by strong stomach acids.

Water is very important for the growth and health of chameleons. They either sip water with their tongue or inhale it.

They also eat locusts, grasshoppers, crickets, mantises, and stick insects.

The chameleon curls its tail allowing it to gain support points.

Predators

There are many types of chameleons, and all of them have many predators or natural enemies. Chameleons are at the bottom of the food chain.

To hide from predators, many species of chameleons can change color to suit their environment. When an animal has the same color as most of its surroundings, it is said to be camouflaged.

Snakes are one of the types of creatures that chameleons eat. Birds are something else. But the mammals as monkeys they also eat chameleons from time to time.

Snakes

The snakes will chase the chameleon in the trees. Climbing snakes like tree snake (Dispholidus typus) are the main culprits. The tree snake in particular threatens chameleons as they too spend most of their time in the trees and also eat the eggs of these small reptiles.

Poultry

The birds will try to hunt the chameleons in the treetops. They are not as good as snakes because the camouflage of the chameleon can make it difficult for them to see through the foliage. Any bird can hunt a chameleon, but the main threats are shrikes, chickadees, and hornbills. Like snakes, birds are also prone to taking chameleon eggs.

Human being

The biggest threat to chameleons is by far The humanity. Chameleons are the victims of poachers and people who trade in exotic pets. Pesticides on farmland have poisoned them, and deforestation has reduced their habitat. Man can also be blamed for some of the forest fires that have destroyed part of his homeland in Africa and Madagascar. According to a 2009 report by United Press International, Africa lost 9 million acres of forest and agricultural land annually due to wildfires between 2000 and 2005.

Other mammals

Monkeys are also known to eat chameleons, although this is not common. Chameleons and monkeys don't share the same habitat often, and even when they do there are easier sources of food for primates.

Reproduction

Chameleons are different from many reptiles because some of the species, such as the Jackson's triocero (Trioceros jacksonii), are born alive. These species can give birth to eight to 30 young at a time after a gestation of four to six months. Although the young are born alive rather than in an egg, they hatch from an egg within the body of the strand. These mothers incubate the eggs, less shell, inside their body instead of putting them in a nest, what we call ovoviviparous.

Other species of chameleons lay eggs that have an incubation period of four to 24 months, depending on the species. The size of the chameleon predicts how many eggs it will lay. Small chameleon species lay two to four eggs, while larger chameleons lay 80 to 100 eggs at a time.

No matter what species, chameleons mature at 1 or 2 years of age. The exception is the Malagasy chameleon. It has been labeled the world's shortest-lived vertebrate, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Their eggs hatch in November, the young hatch into adults in January, lay eggs in February, and then the entire adult population perishes after only three months of life.

Newborn chameleons look like a miniature version of an adult animal. They are capable of leading an independent life from the moment they are born.

State of conservation

According to the IUCN (Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature), many species of chameleons are in danger. Some species that are considered in danger of extinction are the Archaius tigris (Calumma tigris), The smith's dwarf chameleon (Bradypodion taeniabronchum), The Brookesia bonsi and Brookesia decaryi.

Relationship with humans

These reptiles reproduce very easily in captivity, and can be selectively bred for their docile and colorful behavior. However, they are not domesticated in any way and are considered exotic pets.

Is it a good pet?

Yes, these chameleons can make great pets with proper care and handling. As always, reptiles can be fragile and should not be handled by young children without extreme supervision.

This species can be very docile, and it even seems to enjoy being handled by its owners. Of course, it takes time and a lot of care for the animal to acclimatise properly. It is important that your enclosure has plenty of vertical space to climb, and lots of branches and vines.

As arboreal creatures, they require a wide variety of foliage and climbing opportunities to live comfortably. Individuals can have different "favorite" foods, including crickets, mealworms, cockroaches, silkworms, and more.

The chameleon can survive more than 10 years in captivity.

Popular culture

These reptiles are related to witchcraft in many cultures in Africa. In this particular case, let's look at people who speak Swazi. They believe that it is being used by witches to send evil spirits to families because it changes color.

People say it can transform good luck into bad luck, or if it bites you, it can transform you from male to female or the other way around. The Zulus believe that if they bite someone, they will have a wound that will never heal until they die.

Some people also believe that if it bites you, you will immediately start laughing until you die. The people of Tsonga say that if it bites you, you automatically become infertile and it is also believed that if a chameleon dies, the bones will produce young chameleons, which we just learned are ovoviviparous animals and protect their eggs within their own body.

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