What are Chameleons?
Chameleons or chamaeleons are a distinctive and highly specialized clade of Old World lizards.
The word chameleon is a interpreted from Latin and Greek word “chamaeleōn” means “on the ground” and “léōn” means “lion”.
Chameleon, belong to the family of Chamaeleonida, any of a group of originally arboreal (tree-dwelling) lizards. Chameleons are best recognized for their ability to change the body colour.
What are their Characteristics?
Characteristics of chameleons involve:
- It has feet in which two toes point forward, and two to the rear.
- It has the teeth joined to the edge of the jaw without sockets.
- Its eyes can rotate around in two different directions.
- It has glands which contain harmless trace amounts of venom, and a long, sticky projectile tongue.
Why they change their colour?
- A chameleon changes its colour to regulate its body temperature to that of the outside temperature.
- A cold chameleon will turn dark to absorb more heat, while a hot chameleon will turn lighter in shade in order to reflect the heat from its body.
- The change in color in a chameleon can indicate its mood.
- An angry chameleon will have a darker color, whereas a chameleon in a relaxed mood will have a lighter color.
- A chameleon, upon seeing a rival, changes its color to darker shades in order to assert its dominance.
- On the other hand, a lighter color is used to attract potential mates.
Chameleons are often nearly impossible to see— And there’s a good reason for it: These are entirely defenseless. They don’t have a deadly bite, and they can’t move fast. Staying covered is much of their only tactic to avoid predators.
How they change colour?
Many of us think that a chameleon changes its colour to camouflage itself. However, this is one of the most common and false myths that people believe.
Chameleons have a unique type of cells in the body called chromatophores. They are able to manage these cells in order to change their color. A chameleon has two superimposed layers within its skin, and the upper layer consists of nanocrystals of different sizes. A chameleon changes its color by changing the size and shape of these nanocrystals.
- When a chameleon is in a relaxed state, the nanocrystals in the skin are closer to each other and they reflect shorter wavelengths, like blue and green.
- When a chameleon is excited, the distance between nanocrystals increases and it reflects longer wavelengths, such as red, orange and yellow.
Where do we see Chameleons?
- More than 150 species are currently recognized and furthermore continued to be named.
- About half of the species occur only in Madagascar whereas others occur mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Two species occur in Asia; one is native to southern India and Sri Lanka, and the other is found from the Middle East to southern Spain.
- Unlike many lizards, chameleons can’t regrow their tails.
- The chameleons’ eyes can twirl in two different directions and focus separately on 180-degree arcs.
- Chameleons real eyesight is great, they can see small insects 5-10 meters away.
- They can also see in both visible and ultraviolet light.
- Chameleons feed by projecting their tongues which is twice the length of their body to catch prey.
- Species of chameleon can be as small as 15 mm (0.59 in) or as large as 69 cm (27 in).