Panther Chameleon Fact File
The panther chameleon is most well known for being able to change color quickly. Males and females have some slight differences in coloration. The males standard color is a turquoise, emerald-green or blue-green across the body. Females are typically more dull in color being grey, brown or a faint green and blend easier with their environment. The coloration of individuals varies greatly across their range. Running down the centre of the body is a stripe of solid color which typically remains through color changes.
This standard body color can be changed to patterns of red, pink, orange and a range of other color. These changes are not typically used to blend in with their environment as was previously thought. Instead they change due to a range of factors such as light intensity, temperature and their emotions.
Males sport a small appendage protruding from the nose while the female does not have this feature.
On either side of the head is a semi-circular eye which can be turned almost 180° so they can see incredibly well. Their eyes can be moved independently of one another.
They have a tongue which is longer than their body. This is sticky and used to grab food. It can flick and out and back in 0.007 seconds.
Their long tail acts a fifth limb when climbing as it is prehensile and can be wrapped around other items.
The feet of a panther chameleon are specially adapted for climbing and gripping branches. Their feet have five toes which are fused together to make groups of two and three. On the front feet the three toe group faces in and the two face out. This is reversed on the back foot. Each toe has a sharp claw to grasp the branches.
They measure 40-52cm (15.75-20.5in) long and they weigh 140-220g (5-7.75oz).
Wild 3 years
Captive 5 years
Food is caught by sticking out their sticky tongue.
Observations suggest that they prefer running water to still.
Madagascar is the native home of the panther chameleon. Here they are mostly found in the North of the island.
Introduced populations have been established on Réunion and Mauritius.
They make their home in forest and shrubland. With the expansion of human populations they may be found in coffee plantations. Often they are found near rivers or roadsides.
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Breeding takes place from January to May. Males form a territory and any opposing males which enter this will be physically fought to remove them from this territory.
Males display for the female by ducking and bobbing. The male will also produce flashes of color to make him look more attractive.
Following a successful mating the female will become pregnant. At this time she changes color to signal to males that she is not up for mating.
Eggs gestate in the female for two to three weeks. Females lay up to six clutches in a single breeding season. Each clutch may include between 12 and 50 eggs which are deposited in moist soil at a depth of around 10cm (4in).
It may take a full day for the female to complete the egg laying process. Once the eggs are laid she will cover them and trample the soil before covering it with leaves and twigs.
The incubation period can vary between six and twelve months following which the eggs will hatch. The newborns make their own way to the surface and receive no care from their parents.
Sexual maturity can be reached as early as 5 months old.
Panther chameleons move along a branch with their signature rocking motion which helps them to avoid being found.
They are primarily active by day and spend their nights resting on a branch with their prehensile tail wrapped around it. Their eyes lack the necessary elements to allow night vision.
These chameleons are solitary and spend their time alone.
Most of their communication is achieved through changes in color.
Predators and Threats
The natural predators of the panther chameleon are birds and snakes.
Humans pose a threat to this species through habitat clearing and collection for the pet trade. They are tolerant to some changes in habitat and this has helped slow their decline.
They are bred in captivity and this helps to reduce the demand for the wild collection.
The name chameleon comes from Greek words which mean Earth lion.
In Malagasy culture the panther chameleon is seen as being as a symbol of intelligence.
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Jean-Louis Vandevivère / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)
Marc Staub / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)
Charles J Sharp / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)
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