Chameleons (family Chamaeleonidae) are a distinctive and highly specialized clade of lizards with approximately 160 species, and many have the ability to change colors.

chameleon hornedChameleons are distinguished by their zygodactylous feet (having the toes of each foot arranged in pairs, with two toes in front and three behind; the hind feet reverses the arrangement); their very long, highly modified, rapidly extrudable tongues that is 1.5 to 2 times the length of their body; their swaying gait; and crests or horns on their distinctively shaped heads. Most species, the larger ones in particular, also have a prehensile tail.

agoliath8Their eyes are independently mobile with a 360 degree arc of vision, but in aiming at a prey item, they focus forward in coordination, affording the animal stereoscopic vision.




chameleon-lifeboatThey are found in warm habitats that range from rain forest to desert conditions, occurring in Africa, Madagascar (59 species are found here and nowhere else), southern Europe, and across southern Asia as far as Sri Lanka. They also have been introduced to Hawaii, California, and Florida, and often are kept as household pets.

tiniest-chameleonChameleons vary greatly in size and body structure, with maximum total lengths varying from 15 mm (0.59 in) in male Brookesia micra (one of the world’s smallest reptiles) to 68.5 cm (27.0 in) in the male Furcifer oustaleti.

chameleonsMany species are sexually distinguishable, and males are typically much more ornamented than the females. Different species are able to vary their coloration and pattern through combinations of pink, blue, red, orange, green, black, brown, light blue, yellow, turquoise, and purple. It takes about 20 seconds for them to change their colours.

SturgisColor change in chameleons has functions in social signaling and in reactions to temperature and other conditions, as well as in camouflage. Color change signals a chameleon’s physiological condition and intentions to other chameleons. They tend to show darker colors when angered, or attempting to scare or intimidate others, while males show lighter, multicolored patterns when courting females.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome species, such as Smith’s dwarf chameleon, adjust their colors for camouflage in accordance with the vision of the specific predator species (bird or snake) by which they are being threatened.


A namaqua chameleon on the Skeleton Coast stands in the sand on a cold morningThe desert-dwelling Namaqua chameleon also uses color change as an aid to thermoregulation, becoming black in the cooler morning to absorb heat more efficiently, then a lighter grey color to reflect light during the heat of the day. It may show both colors at the same time, neatly separated left from right by the spine.

Sources: Twisted Sifter, Wikipedia.