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A chameleon is a unique lizard that belongs to the Chamaeleonidae family. They inhabit warm locations such as rainforests and deserts. They are known to change colors, rapidly shoot their long tongues outward, and move their eyes independently.
See the fact file below for more information on the chameleon, or you can download our 24-page Chameleon worksheet pack to utilize within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Chameleons are fascinating creatures.
- They have the ability to change color from brilliant shades of reds, greens, and yellows to subtle shades of brown.
- Chameleons are reptiles, part of the iguana suborder (Iguana is a genus of herbivorous lizards).
- Chameleon’s family name is Chamaeleonidae, with 202 recorded species.
- Although most species of chameleon lay eggs, some species give birth to live offspring.
- However, all chameleons are identified as reptiles as they are cold-blooded.
- Chameleons vary greatly in both size and body structure.
- Some species are only 0.59 in (15 mm) long, while other species grow as large as 27 in (68.5 cm)
- Male chameleons are typically more ornamented than females, and some species are sexually dimorphic (males and females have different colors or features).
- The word chameleon comes from the Latin word chamaeleōn, derived from its Greek equivalent, which means “on the ground lion.”
- Chameleons can be classified into twelve genera and 202 individual species.
- Chameleons are native to Eurasia and Africa, where they live in warm habitats ranging from desert conditions to rainforests.
- Almost half (around 44%) of the chameleon population live in Madagascar in East Africa.
- The Calumma, Brookesia, and Furcifer genera can only be found in Madagascar.
Interesting Physical Characteristics
- Chameleons’ eyes move independently and can rotate 360 degrees.
- Their eyes can also see two directions at once.
- They have sharp vision with excellent depth perception, which allows them to easily target their prey (usually insects) up to 20 ft (6 mt) away.
- They are also able to see ultraviolet light. This asset allows them to target their prey easier.
- Chameleons’ hearing is not very good as they only hear a limited range of frequencies.
- The tongues of chameleons are fascinating. They are two to three times longer than their bodies.
- Chameleons can shoot their tongues out at speeds of about 13 mph (20 kph) to catch their food.
- The tongues consist of two kinds of muscles, the accelerator muscle, and the hyoglossus.
- The accelerator muscle is what enables them to eject their tongues speedily and forcefully.
- The hyoglossus brings the tongue back into the chameleon’s mouth.
- Chameleons utilize both their eyes and tongues to capture their prey, with their sharp eyes spotting their target and then their long tongues grabbing it.
- Chameleons also produce sticky mucus on the tip of their tongue, so when the tongue snaps out, the sticky end snares the prey. The tongue then wraps around the insect as it returns back into the reptile’s mouth.
- Chameleons are able to attach themselves securely to branches of trees and other objects because of their zygodactylous feet.
- Zygodactyl feet have two or three toes pointing forward and the others pointing backward.
- Chameleon’s toes also have sharp nails that can stick to branches.
- The tails of the bigger species of chameleons are prehensile, meaning they’re capable of grasping things. Specifically, they are used to holding onto tree branches.
- When chameleons are at rest, their tails are curled tightly into a coil.
- If a chameleon’s tail is damaged or cut off, it does not grow back.
Other Interesting Characteristics
- Chameleons are mostly insectivores feeding on a variety of insects. However, some of the bigger species are omnivores and eat things like caterpillars, small birds, frogs, and lizards.
- Chameleons have the amazing ability to change colors to blend into different environments.
- Most species change their color, but some species can even change the pattern and mix of colors.
- When a chameleon changes color, it controls the pigments and the amino acid crystals (particularly guanine) ingrained on its skin.
- Chameleons change colors for several reasons, including camouflage as a defense mechanism from predators, a signal to other chameleons, and a technique to regulate body temperature.
- Bright colors signal dominance, while toned-down colors signal submission.
Reproduction and Lifestyle
- Chameleons become mature adults after one to two years of age.
- Reproduction varies with species.
- Most chameleon species give birth by laying eggs. However, there are some species that produce live young.
- Egg-laying species will dig a hole and deposit the eggs into it. The size and depth of the hole vary depending on the species.
- Small chameleons lay only a few eggs, but larger species can lay up to 100 eggs.
- Chameleon eggs have flexible shells which are affected by environmental characteristics during incubation.
- Eggs hatch after four to 12 months, again depending on the species.
- Each young chameleon is born within the sticky transparent membrane of its yolk sac.
- For live births, the eggs are incubated inside the mother’s body.
- Again, depending on the species, these females can have up to 30 live young from one gestation.
- The lifespan of a chameleon varies a lot between the species.
- Predators of adult chameleons are mainly snakes and birds, while eggs and juveniles are preyed upon by invertebrates.
- The average lifespan of a chameleon in the wild is two to three years and up to as many as ten years in captivity.
- The Anqingosaurus brevicephalus is the oldest described chameleon. It was identified in the Middle Paleocene era (which was 60 million years ago) in China.
- Various sources point out that chameleons are much older than 60 million years, with fossils having been found in Africa dating back 100 million years.
- Both the smallest and biggest chameleons are found in Madagascar.
- The Brookesia Micra is the smallest chameleon measuring only up to 1 in (2.5 cm) in length.
- The Oustalet’s chameleon (or Madagascan) and the Parson’s chameleon are the largest chameleons measuring up to 27 inches (68 cm) long.
- The Parson’s chameleon can weigh up to 2 lb (0.9 kg).
- The Madagascan chameleon has a lifespan of only three months.
- The pygmy chameleon is as big/small as a caterpillar.
- The Swift’s dwarf chameleon changes its color according to the predator’s vision capacities.
- The Tarzan chameleon got its name from a village named Tarzanville. It is already an endangered species.
- The Namaqua chameleon changes its color to control body temperature. It changes to black to absorb heat and light gray to release heat.
- The panther chameleon is known for its bright colors.
Did You Know?
- A group of chameleons is called a camp.
- A female’ common chameleon’ shows yellow spots when she wants to mate. Otherwise, she’ll show blue and yellow spots against a darkened skin tone.
- The spit of a chameleon is super sticky. Their spit is 400 times more viscous than human spit. This is why they can basically glue insects onto their tongues.
- The walk of chameleons is very distinct. They have a certain “sway” when they walk.
- Chameleons shed their skin gradually, not all in one go like snakes.
This fantastic bundle includes everything you need to know about chameleon across 24 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Chameleon worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about a chameleon, which is a unique lizard that belongs to the Chamaeleonidae family. They inhabit warm locations such as rainforests and deserts. They are known to change colors, rapidly shoot their long tongues outward, and move their eyes independently.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Chameleon Facts
- What Is A Chameleon?
- Pair the Parts
- Chameleon Correction
- Chameleon Crossword
- Wanted: Chameleon
- Define The Species
- Color the Chameleon
- Camille the Chameleon
- Capture Caught On Camera
- The Chameleon Poem
Frequently Asked Questions
Do chameleons make good pets?
Chameleons are popular reptile pets; however, they don’t like to be held or touched and prefer to be in their own space. They are fascinating to watch/observe and are neither noisy nor smelly.
Can chameleons run?
Chameleons can move quite fast if they have to, and they can travel at speeds of up to 21 mph (33 mph). However, they usually prefer a more leisurely movement.
Can a chameleon bite you?
Chameleons can bite, but it’s not painful and rarely breaks the skin. They are not aggressive creatures, and bites usually only occur when they are handled too roughly.
Where do chameleons sleep?
Chameleons sleep almost anywhere. They like to stay in one place for long periods, swiveling their eyes to keep a check on things, and usually fall asleep when they want to.
Can chameleons jump?
As far as we know, chameleons can not jump. Most of their actions are slow, calculated, and very deliberate.
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Link will appear as Chameleon Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, November 7, 2018
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