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Temporal range: Early Miocenepresent, 26–0 mya – Holocene, but probably much older.
Indian chameleon in Mangaon, Maharashtra, India
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Iguania
Clade: Acrodonta
Family: Chamaeleonidae
Rafinesque, 1815
They can change colour

Chameleons are a family of lizards. Most can change the colour of their skins for camouflage, or to signal mood to other chameleons.

They are a clade of lizards. They have parrot-like zygodactylous feet,[1]

Their eyes are separately mobile and stereoscopic.[2] Their very long tongues can flick out, and their movement sways like leaves in the wind. Their prehensile (grabbing) tail can hang onto branches and many can change colour. They eat insects.

Chameleons have long sticky tongues that they can fire out in a fraction of a second. They stretch up to twice their body size. Their eyes can move independently. The largest species is about 1.5 feet when fully grown. They are mainly insectivores, but larger species may take occasional smaller lizards and young birds.[3]

There are about 160 species, living in Africa, Madagascar, Spain and Portugal, across south Asia, Sri Lanka. They have been introduced to Hawaii, California and Florida, and are found in warm habitats that vary from rain forest to desert conditions. Chameleons are often kept as household pets.

Tiny chameleons[change | change source]

The world's tiniest reptile has been found on Madagascar. It is a chameleon 13.5mm long.[4] It hunts for mites on the rainforest floor and hides from predators at night in blades of grass. Other species of tiny chameleons have been found.[5]

Vision[change | change source]

Independent eye movement

Chameleons have 360-degree eye-turning, the ability to zoom in and out, and binocular vision.

Chameleon eye
Chameleon's tongue striking at food

Each of the chameleon's eyes can move separately,[6] allowing them to see all around them at all times.

Chameleons have two eyes whose vision overlaps.[7] This gives them 3D vision. They can switch to monocular vision, which is seeing with each eye independently.[8] This gives them more flexible sight.

In popular fiction[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Zygodactyly: (birds) an arrangement with two toes facing forward (digits 2 and 3) and two back (digits 1 and 4); (chameleons) the feet are fused into a group of two and a group of three toes which oppose one another to grasp branches in a pincer-like arrangement. Zygodactyly is most common in arboreal species, particularly those that climb tree trunks or clamber through foliage.
  2. Eyes can focus and move independently.
  3. Dever, Jennifer 2007. Common Chameleon (PDF). [1]
  4. 'Smallest reptile on Earth' discovered in Madagascar. BBC News [2].
  5. Glaw, Frank et al. 2012. Rivaling the world's smallest reptiles: discovery of miniaturized and microendemic new species of leaf chameleons (Brookesia) from Northern Madagascar. PLoS. [3]
  6. "What is unusual about a chameleon's eyes?". Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  7. "binocular vision - Google Search". Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  8. "Eyes give 360° vision : Chameleon - AskNature". AskNature. Retrieved 2018-04-17.

Other websites[change | change source]