15+ Interesting Facts About Chameleons

  1. Chameleons are arboreal (tree-dwelling) old-world lizards commonly known for changing their body color.
  2. Contrary to a common perception, chameleons usually don’t change color for camouflage. Instead, the reasons behind changing their color are to regulate body temperature or provide social signals to other chameleons. They can easily do so thanks to the transparent outer layer of their skin. (Source)
  3. Chameleons can move their tongue from 0 to 60 mph in 1/100th of a second while catching their prey. It is one of the fastest movements in the animal kingdom. (Source)
  4. The oldest chameleon ever found is 99 million years old. This fossilized chameleon was discovered from amber in Myanmar. (Source)
  5. There are more than 200 known species of chameleons. Around half of these species are present in Madagascar. The remaining species are in mainland Africa, Asia, and parts of Europe. A study shows that chameleons moved from Africa to Madagascar millions of years ago. (Source)
  6. The smallest species of chameleon (Brookwesia micra) is just 29 mm (1 inch) long. The largest chameleon species (Parson’s Chameleon) can attain a length of 69.5 cm (27 in). Most species are 17-25 cm (7-10 in) long.
  7. Even in the absence of ears and ear canal, chameleons can hear low tone sounds through the membrane on the side of their heads. Chameleons produce growling low-tone sounds for communication.
  8. Chameleons have five toes like other lizards. But the arrangement of their toes is unique. On the front feet, they have two toes on the inner side and three on the outer side. Their rear feet have three toes on the inner side and two on the outside. This toe structure is helpful for them to grasp branches effortlessly.
  9. Chameleons have unique eye structures. They have a single scaly eyelid covering the entire eye. Both eyes can move in different directions simultaneously and have a full range of motion. (Source)
  10. Chameleons are carnivorous animals. They generally eat insects like locusts, crickets, mantids, etc. Large species may eat other lizards and small birds.
  11. Unlike lizards and a few other reptiles, chameleons can’t regenerate their lost tails or any other body part. (Source)
  12. The saliva of chameleon is 400 times more viscous (sticky) than the saliva of humans. This sticky substance helps the reptile catch prey, which is 30% heavier than the chameleon’s body weight, with its tongue. (Source)
    A Labord's chameleon on a tree branch
    Labord's chameleon has the shortest lifespan among tetrapod

  13. Labord’s Chameleon, a species present only in Madagascar, lives for just 4 to 5 months. It is the shortest lifespan for any tetrapod (four-legged vertebrate). (Source)
  14. The green anole, commonly known as the American chameleon, can change its color from brown to green. But despite its name and color-changing qualities, it is not related to true chameleons. They are also popular pets.
  15. Research has shown that the skin of a chameleon’s skull shines under UV (ultraviolet) light. This feature is present in very few land animals. Chameleons can also see UV light. Therefore, they may use this feature for communication. (Source)
  16. Chameleons have a jerky, back-and-forth walking style. This funny walking movement, which resembles leaves blowing in the breeze, conceals them from predators.
  17. Like humans, chameleons also use UVB light from the sun to make Vitamin D3. It is necessary for the absorption of calcium in the body.
  18. Like other reptiles, most chameleon species lay eggs. But few species give birth to young. Female chameleons can lay unfertilized eggs without mating.

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