Amazing Facts About Wildlife

Change like Chameleon!

By Prashant Mahajan

Chameleons have a remarkable ability to change colour. A chameleon can change its colour from green and brown to different shades of yellow, white or black in the space of few minutes. Most chameleons are green and live among leaves but they do not change their colour to match their background. Their colour changes with the temperature and often becomes much brighter when chameleon meets chameleon.

During an aggressive encounter, partner chameleons in Madagascar signal their rage by flushing their bodies with violent, intimidating red and yellows. Another species advertises its sexual availability with colour. In the mating season, bright-green males seek out gray brown females. But if a female turns very dark, with black on her back and green lower parts she is not willing to mate. The male ignores this rejection at his peril, for she can deliver a powerful bite if he persists. A female who has already mated makes it clear that she is pregnant and no longer in search of a mate: about two or three days after copulation, she changes colour, developing an array of yellow stripes and black spots on a turquoise background.

The chameleon’s eyes are set in protruding turrets and can be rotated quite independently, so that the animal can see forward with one eye whilst looking sideways or backwards with other. The eyes rotate ceaselessly in all directions till the prey is sighted, and when the chameleon makes up its mind to catch the prey the eyes stop rotation and focus on the object, towards which the chameleon advances with great deliberation. About 25 cm away from its prey the chameleon stops, aims with its head, rocks sideways the better to judge the distance, and suddenly the insect vanishes, having been snatched up by a lightning lick of the tongue.

Africa is the home of these lizards. Only one species Chameleo zeylanicus, occurs in India.

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