Chameleon – habitat, size, species and diet with pictures

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Updated: October 24, 2016

As a kid, I was always fascinated by the chameleons. They are such intriguing organisms that they capture everyone’s attention even at the first look.

But whenever we think of chameleons, we think about the color change, isn’t it? But there is so much more to them other than color change and camouflage. They live in some of the most harsh environments around the world, yet they survive all the conditions courtesy of their incredible but odd traits such as their projecting tongue and of course, the color change!!!

So come, let us explore this amazing creature and learn some amazing facts about them.

Types Of Chameleons

Chameleons are a very specific class of reptiles with 202 species as of the latest survey conducted by an international society. They come in a variety  of hues, and numerous of them can alter their colors.

Chameleons are recognized by their extremely adapted feet; their long, exceedingly adjusted, rapid projecting tongues; and peaks or horns on their forehead and nose. Most of them, the bigger ones specifically, likewise have a tail which helps it in hanging to the branches.

Their eyes are autonomously movable, yet in going for a prey, they center forward in coordination, using the creature stereoscopic eyesight. They are adapted for climbing and visual preying.

They live in warm natural surroundings that extent from heavy rainy areas to arid conditions, different species belonging to Africa, Madagascar, southern Europe, and crosswise over southern Asia to the extent Sri Lanka. They additionally have been recently brought to Hawaii, California, and Florida, and regularly are kept as domestic pets.

Color Change

Most of the chameleons change their color from brown to green and vice-versa, yet some can convert to any color. An alter can happen in as meager as 20 seconds.

Chameleons have some inborn extraordinary cells that have a hue or color in them. Such cells are found under the chameleon’s external skin and are known as chromatophores. The outermost portion of chromatophores have red-like or yellowish color. The lower ones have somewhat blue-like or whitish color. At the point when these color cells alter, the skin’s color also changes.

These cells change the color since they receive a message from the cerebrum. This message directs the cells to swell or to shrivel. These activities make the colors to blend—simply like paint.

Melanin also helps the chameleons to change their skin color. These melanin strands just scatter like the webs of spider and their mere presence causes the chameleon skin to get a darkish color.

Numerous theories have been around for some time telling that chameleons alter their skin color just to mix in with the ambiance and camouflage from their prey or predators, but researchers completely disagree with these ideas.

According to their research, they have found out that elements such as temperature, surrounding illumination and their state of mind are some of the most crucial factors that determine and establish the reason of the chameleon’s changing its color.

Most of the time, it has been found that chameleons feel very comfortable and safe after changing its skin color. It has also been discovered that the color changing phenomena also helps the chameleons to communicate with others of its kind.

Unique 360° View Of Its Eyes

They also have a very unique feature – their eyes. The reason being that they have a very different set of eyes when compared to any lizard or reptile.

Contradicting to the conventional structure of the eyelids, the chameleons have joined upper and lower eyelids and only a pin-size hole to see through the pupil. They are capable of rotating and concentrating independently to watch two very distinct things, each at exactly the same time, allowing their pair of eyes to rotate freely from each other.

Such an ability to focus on two things at the same time gives the chameleons an extra advantage while hunting. This amazing ability enables them to focus entirely on one prey, giving sharp stereoscopic vision and profundity observation.

It also gives the chameleons an added advantage of a complete 360° view of the entire surrounding which helps it to escape from predators. They really have a great eye sight when compared to other reptiles, allowing them to hunt down small bugs and insects from a considerable range of 10-15 m.

Chameleon Size And Body Structure

Generally, the chameleons come in varied sizes and body shape, some being longer than other species. Their maximum length varies from 15 mm of the Brookesia Micra, which is one of the world’s smallest reptile, to 68.5 cm.

Lightning Fast Tongue

It is very intriguing and fascinating to know that the tongue of an average chameleon grows up to become approximately one and a half times the length of its entire body.

They feed by suddenly projecting their lightning fast tongue right from their mouth to hunt down the prey at a considerable distance. Although it has been found that the tongue of the chameleon is nearly 1.5-2 times their body length excluding the tail, but it was recently found out that the smaller ones have a considerably bigger and longer tongue as compared to the larger chameleons.

The chameleons project their tongue in an extreme speed. It usually throws its tongue so fast that it can reach its prey in a meager 1/100th of a second. And moreover its tongue has been adapted to survive a tremendous amount of gravitational force equaling to approximately 40g.

The tongue tip of a chameleon forms a muscular ball resembling the shape of a bulbous bow and as soon as it touches the prey, it swiftly creates a suction cup which surrounds the prey and captures it.

The Multipurpose Feet

The chameleons have been blessed with some of the exclusive features which help it to survive the harsh atmosphere it lives in. This includes its specialized feet which helps it to hang around in the trees. They are also adapted for the flawless movement of the chameleons around the trees.

Each foot of a chameleon has five clearly distinctive toes which are summed up into a flat and squeezed cross-section having 2-3 toes. This gives the feet of a chameleon a tong-shaped look.

The outer group of the front foot consists of 2 toes, but the group which is inner placed has three. However, it has been found out that the configuration has been completely reversed for the rear feet.

These tremendously adapted foot of the chameleons allow them to hold and grip into the narrowest and roughest of all the branches. It should also be mentioned that each toe is configured with a very sharp claw which helps it to grip into things while climbing various terrains.

Awesome Chameleon Images


Reproduction of Chameleons

The Chameleons are mostly found out to be oviparous.

After about 3-6 weeks of copulation, they lay the eggs. The female counterpart makes a hole in the ground around 6-10 inches and lay their eggs there. The smaller sized chameleons lay 2-4 eggs, whereas the larger ones can lay up to 100-200 eggs.

The hatching period also varies from species to species. Some of them take about 4 months but some can even take as long as a year.

Each of the new born baby chameleon has a sticky transparent film (membrane) attached to its yolk sack. The female chameleon presses an egg to the tree’s branch, where it firmly sticks. As a result the membrane slowly breaks and out comes a new born baby chameleon. As soon as it comes out, it climbs the branches of the trees looking for food and protecting itself from other predators.



They generally feed on small insects and worms. But their larger counterparts most of the time feed on other lizards and some small birds.


Conservation Of The Chameleons

Among most of the species of  the chameleons discovered, only a few of them are in the verge of extinction and even fewer are in the endangered list. But most of the chameleons are somehow threatened in one way or the other.

And the most dangerous and worrying threat of them all comes right from their homes, the forests. As mankind is expanding, so are their needs and the ever growing population needs more spaces and food.

So, in order to meet our needs, we are ruthlessly cutting down all the forests and jungles for spaces to live and to grow more crops. And when the forests are cut down, the chameleons and all other species which used to depend upon them also start to face the consequences.

The problem doesn’t stop here. It aggravates when these helpless animals are captivated and put on for a show at zoos or our homes as a domestic pet. They start to live in an artificial habitat and no organism can survive properly when it has been displaced from its original habitat. These innocent little chameleons are captured and sold worldwide. Most of them die even before they reach their owner’s home and the rest of them soon give up their life.

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