Reptile Facts Chameleons

There are one hundred fifty eight species of Chameleons all belonging to the family Chamaeleonidae. Chameleons mature from one to two years of age and the lifespan of the species is not known in the wild but in zoos it is over ten years. Chameleon means “earth lion” and comes from two Greek words. The words being Chamai which means on the ground or on the earth and leon which means lion together they form chameleon.

Chameleons are found in the rain forest, savanna, semi-desert and steppe of Africa, Madagascar, southern Europe and Asia. Chameleons are lizards known for their ability to change color to match their surroundings. They have long sticky tongues and the eyes can move independently from each other. The Chameleon spends most of its time in trees and bushes. The chameleon has five toes that are capable of grabbing onto branches like out thumbs and fingers do. The tail assists them in climbing as they wrap it around tree branches. The tail of the chameleon can not be broken off and grown back.

The eyes of the Chameleon have a scaly lid that is cone shaped and have only a tiny round opening in the middle of the pupil. It can rotate and focus with each eye individually to look at two things at once. When prey is seen both eyes focus the same way.

The gestation period for the species of Chameleons that give live birth is only four to six months long. The species that give live birth have from eight to thirty young which vary by species. The incubation period for the species that lay eggs is anywhere from four to twenty-four months which is dependant on the specific egg laying species. The majority of Chameleons will lay eggs with the smaller ones only laying two to four eggs at a time. Eighty to one hundred eggs are laid by the larger of the species. (The Parson’s chameleon (Calumma parsonii) is thought to be one of the species that eggs take up to twenty-four months to hatch.)

The Smith’s dwarf chameleon (Bradypodion taeniabronchum) is listed at a critical risk; tiger chameleons (Calumma tigris) and Setaro’s dwarf chameleon (Bradypodion setaroi) are on the endangered species list.

In some species of Chameleon the tongue is longer than their body. The chameleon is thought to like running water more than still water. Each species of chameleon has a group of patterns and colors that it has the ability to display; some of which are for the purpose of camouflage. Fear, anger, lighting, temperature and humidity can all play a part in the color of the chameleon.