The multicolored chameleon

Posted on Mar 8, 2021      161


The amazing animal chameleon has long attracted people’s attention. First of all, for its unique ability to change color! But this is not the only thing that makes it an interesting, recognizable and special representative of fauna. Today we want to talk about chameleons in more detail.

Chameleon Appearance

Chameleon is a large lizard with a special body structure. Representatives of this family can be quite large - up to 60 cm, but there are also tiny species of chameleons, whose length does not exceed 2-5 cm.

Chameleon differs from ordinary lizards by helmet-shaped head with prominent ridges (sometimes sharp, sometimes knobby, sometimes convex), long thin legs and front paws, toes which merge as pincers - they allow this reptile masterfully move around any plants and branches. The chameleon has a thick, long tail that can twist into a bizarre spiral.

The chameleon’s eyes are also its unusual distinguishing feature. The eyes of the animal are large and convex. They are covered with skin (acting as eyelids), which has a hole for the pupils. The chameleon can move its eyes non-synchronously. Sometimes, while searching for prey, the animal examines space with only one eye, while the other is absolutely motionless. By the way, the chameleon’s viewing angle is 360 degrees!

How the chameleon changes color

The main distinguishing feature of the chameleon, for which it has become known and loved, is, of course, the ability to change color and body pattern. This unique feature is because of the structure of the chameleon skin.

The animal’s skin resembles a knobby scaly armor. Chameleons have special cells called “chromatophores” in the upper and deeper layers of their skin. They contain different amounts of pigments (reddish brown, black, yellow). When a chameleon reacts to something or the environment changes, the pigments in the chromatophore cells are redistributed. This is what makes it possible to see many combinations of colors.

The chameleon itself can change not only the color of its entire body but also the color of a particular area. For example, if the reptile strains, its muscles and nerve endings are in a state of spasm: because of it, chromatophores cannot “walk” quietly through the body of the chameleon. They have to concentrate in one area. This is how the characteristic spots or stripes appear.

So why is the chameleon’s coloration most often green? That’s also very interesting! It turns out it’s all about the structure of its skin again. The green color occurs because of refraction of sunlight in the surface layer of chameleon skin - it contains a substance guanine, which reflects light.

The chameleon color depends on many factors: air temperature, sunlight, and humidity. The reptile changes color from hunger, fright or irritation. But at night chameleons are pale and more visible, which makes them easy prey for predators.

Chameleon habitat

Chameleons are heat-loving animals. They live mainly in tropical forests, savannah, and sometimes in the steppes and deserts. For life, they choose areas with lots of vegetation.

Most species of chameleons live in Africa, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka and the islands of the Indian Ocean in southern Europe. Some members of the chameleon family can even be found on the hot coasts of America (Hawaii, California, Florida).

Chameleon’s habits and lifestyle

Amazing reptiles lead a daytime lifestyle. Almost all the time they spend in the trees and bushes, and come down to earth only during the mating season. This is connected with the structure of chameleon’s paws: it’s more convenient to move from branch to branch with their claws, than to walk on the ground: on it they slow down and start swaying. But if necessary, chameleons can quite briskly run and even jump. To move, the colorful animals use not only their paws but also their long tail. It is very strong and reliably guards the animal.

The main diet of the chameleon is a variety of insects: crickets, butterflies, cockroaches, beetles. Their menu also includes small lizards, snakes and arthropods. Some chameleon species do not mind feeding on fruits and leaves. The chameleon gets its food with the help of a long tongue with a special suction cup on the end. According to observations, just a couple of seconds a chameleon releases the tongue, catch 3-4 insects and return the “weapon” in its original position.

The multicolored reptile in the wild has enemies as well. The animal can easily fall prey to snakes, large birds of prey, or predators. It is for hiding from enemies that the chameleon uses its ability to mimic its environment.

Chameleons are rather inactive by nature. They can be called one of the most phlegmatic representatives of fauna. The reptile can wait for prey in an ambush for literally hours.

Are you impressed with the chameleon?