Fast Facts  
Chapter 6:
General Interest

  • Veiled Chameleons are classified as the following:
  • Family: Chamelonidae
    Species: Calyptratus (veiled)

  • Did you know that "Chameleon" translated means "little Lion".

  • A "Herpetologist" is a person who studies reptiles.

  • "Husbandry" is the term used to describe all aspects of how we take care of reptiles.

  • The ability to change color is not unique to chameleons. Many animals including fish, frogs and other lizards, have this ability.

  • Chameleons have several kinds of pigment located with different cells in their skin. The pigment that is most responsible for most color changes is MELANIN. This is a dark substance contained in cells known as MELANOPHORES.

  • When melanin particles are concentrated in one place inside the melenophores, the bright yellow and blue pigments in other skin cells can be seen. Then, a chameleon's skin usually looks green. When the dark melanin spreads out within the melanophores, it covers up some of the other pigment cells. This causes the skin to appear black. Other movements can create stripes and spots of color!

  • Chameleons are "ectotherms", animals whose temperatures are controlled from outside their bodies.

  • Chameleons react to heat and cold by changing color too. Unless they can increase their body temperature by absorbing heat from the sun, they stay the same temperature as the air around them. Without warmth, they cannot hunt, move, or digest their food. In the morning they squeeze their sides together and puff out their chins, flattening their bodies to create more surface area. Dark colors absorb heat better, so the side of the chameleon facing the sun becomes almost black, while the other remains it usual color!

  • They often take place in response to changes in temperature, light, mood, and emotions. Changing color is also a way of communicating between other chameleons. If they are fearful or territorial, their emotions will evoke a particular color/pattern.

  • Chameleons cannot camouflage themselves by matching their surroundings! Chameleons protect themselves by moving very slowly, and swaying back and forth as they walk to mimic a leaf blowing in the wind!

  • It is not unusual to see a chameleon eat the dead skin they out-grow, once it has been shed off.

  • Chameleons do have taste buds!

  • Chameleons have a poor sense of smell.

  • Chameleons have ears, which are 2 tiny holes (not visible to the eye), which are located near the eyes. They hear vibrations in the air, which help them find food and stay safe from their enemies. They are almost deaf, but can hear tones and feel vibrations. Vision is their best sense!

  • Chameleons have teeth to grasp onto food. Their teeth are also used to help them crush and kill their food. They may chew or swallow their food whole. They can also use their teeth for tearing chunks off and then swallow. Some chameleons hold the dead prey in their mouth for several moments before swallowing it.

  • When a lizard is sick or has eaten something that does not agree with it, it may throw up. This is sometimes harmful to the lizard because they tend to become dehydrated when this occurs.

  • Male veiled chameleons have nubs on the back of their heels called "Tarsal Spurs". They also develop larger casques (the peak on the top of their heads) and are slightly longer in length.

  • A chameleon's vision is referred to as "Binocular". Even though their eyes operate independently from one another, they see like humans do. Many other reptiles with eyes on the sides of their heads can only see a separate image with each eye.

  • Chameleon tails are "Prehensile". This means they can wrap around objects and grip them, just like the tails of many monkeys!

  • Veiled chameleons have "Zygodactyl" feet. Toes are grouped in opposition to each other.

  • Chameleons cannot re-grow their tails, like many other reptiles can.

  • Most chameleons are "Arboreal" creatures, meaning they dwell mainly in the "trees" and are rarely seen walking on the ground unless preparing to lay eggs or hunting. There are some rare species that live most of their entire lives on the ground, under leaves!

  • Chameleons are built for climbing. Their hands and feet develop sharp nails (never clip them) to grip branches. Chameleons can walk fairly well on carpeted surfaces, but do not like any surface where they have lack of traction, like a hardwood floors.

  • Many chameleons enjoy sleeping upside down, or in a corner, do not panic if you see this!

  • Unlike most reptiles, chameleons have the ability to see in color!

  • The outer layer of a chameleon's skin is made up of Keratin. Unlike human skin, this material does not expand as the animal grows. Chameleons must replace their outer skin layers from time to time.

  • Unlike a snake, a chameleon will shed its old skin in patches. The entire process could take weeks! A baby will shed every few weeks, as it is growing quickly. An adult will shed every 4 months or so.

  • When a chameleon is ready to shed, he will "puff up" in order to break out of the old skin. You will see him twisting around, rubbing against sticks, and even using his feet to try and pull the dead skin off!

  • Never pull or pick at the skin that is shedding. It will fall off when it's ready and is not doing any harm to your chameleon. You will cause stress, irritation and infections if you start picking! If the skin has not fallen off, it means the underlying skin is to delicate and raw to be exposed, even if it looks tough.

  • Chameleons are not social animals. They are extremely territorial and will display territorial behavior if they even see their reflection in a mirror!

  • Chameleons of all age seem to have difficulty perceiving variations in height/depth. Many hatchlings will dart off in any direction without warning and run right out of your hand if you are not holding on well to it. Be aware of this! Many chameleons will walk right off windowsills, tables, etc., so be very careful.

  • A Chameleons shed cycle can be helpful when determining a good indicator of its general health. Keep track of how often your chameleon sheds in a journal, along with other variables such as when you give them supplements, food, change bulbs etc.

  • A sure sign that your chameleon is sick, is if it is sleeping during the day, or has one or both eyes closed. Chameleon's do not sleep during the day.


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Alternative Foods