Did you know there are 202 different species of chameleon, mostly found in sub-tropical locations? And did you know that 59 of the worlds chameleons are found on the island of Madagascar and nowhere else? If you answered no, you’re not alone. Chameleons are incredibly interesting but highly mysterious.
To help you find out more, ExoticDirect have put together more facts about chameleons that you probably didn’t know:
1. There Are Different Varieties
The range of chameleons is absolutely incredible. You can get some as small as stick of gum like the Brookesia Micra which is just 30 mm long. Their babies, of course, are even smaller, about the size of cotton bud. Other varieties grow in excess of 70 cm, including the Malagasy chameleon which is only found in Madagascar.
2. Chameleons Have Odd Eyes
Us humans have basic bifocal vision, mainly because of where our eyes are situated and the fact that we’re predators. Chameleons have to keep an eye out all the time and their eyes can move independently of each other, giving a full circle of vision. It means they can see predators that are trying to sneak up behind them, without having to turn their heads.
3. Like Other Reptiles, They Like Heat and Humidity
You generally find chameleon’s in hot and humid places such as sub-Saharan Africa. That’s why the island of Madagascar is such an ideal location. Many of the species found here are indigenous and you don’t get them anywhere else. It’s also why chameleons are difficult to keep in captivity.
4. Camouflage Isn’t About the Surroundings
Many people think that these reptiles change their colour to match their surroundings but that’s not really true. The do change colour but it’s for a variety of reasons. This might be because of mating rituals, it could just be down to their mood or factors like light, humidity and temperature playing a role.
Mating can also cause a change in pattern. Colourful males are more dominant and appealing to females while submissive males look grey or brown. Female chameleons change their colours based on the type of mate they are trying to attract.
5. You’re Most Likely to Find Them in Trees
Chameleons are perfectly adapted for tree climbing. They have well developed feet and sharp claws on their toes. Add to this a powerful tail that can wrap several times around a branch and it’s not very often that a chameleon will fall out of a tree.
6. Chameleons Have Fast Tongues
The power isn’t all in the tail, however. Catching prey using their tongues is what chameleons were made for. These can often be very long and contain both muscle and bone. Flexible and fast moving, they’re the ideal tool for catching passing insects including crickets.
7. Chameleons Have an Interesting Diet
While most species subsist on insects of various kinds and a large chameleon can eat as many as 50 crickets a day, they also eat fruit and the surrounding foliage. Some chameleons have a carnivorous streak and will eat other chameleons, particularly smaller varieties that are easier to catch.
8. They Have Good Eyesight But Bad Hearing
While their hearing is fairly limited, chameleons have pretty good eyesight even for a reptile. They can see prey 5 to 10 metres away and even recognise ultraviolet light, something which could help them pick the right mate during courtship.
9. Males Have Spikes
It’s relatively easy to tell male from female when it comes to chameleons. While they’re not the most sociable animals, they do need to make an effort when it comes to mating. Males generally have spikes and horns on their bodies while the females are a lot smoother. For males, this is protection for when they have to defend their territory.
10. They Don’t Live Long
The hatching process for the poor chameleon is a long drawn out process. While some eggs can take just 4 months to produce a baby, others take as long as 12. The record goes to the Parson’s chameleon which has to wait a staggering 2 years before it hatches. A female will lay anything from just a couple of eggs at a time to more than 200 depending on the species.
The average lifespan, however, is not very long at just over 10 years. Chameleons held in captivity last a shorter time which is why they don’t necessarily make suitable pets.