Did you know that "Chameleon"
translated means "little Lion".
is a person who studies reptiles.
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
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
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
Chameleons do have taste
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
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
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
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.