JUN 09, 2020 3:32 PM PDT

The Awesome Science Behind Chameleons

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Most people recognize the humble chameleon as a type of lizard that can change its body colors. But contrary to popular belief, chameleons don’t usually do this for the sake of camouflage alone, but rather to communicate with other chameleons, that is, except for a few documented exceptions. In fact, many chameleons are pre-color-matched to their surroundings from birth.

Given the stereotypical color-changing behavior that is often associated with chameleons, it’s worth mentioning that there are several different species around the world, and only a handful of those can change their body colors. But while not all species can change their body colors, they make up for this shortcoming with other types of incredible natural abilities.

While many chameleons are slow and sluggish, their tongues are not. They often hunt fast-moving prey, and to keep up, they launch their tongues at break-neck speeds, effectively capturing their prey from a distance and reeling it back into their mouths. Chameleon tongues can stretch up to twice the length of their bodies, and they’re sticky, allowing them to snag almost anything they want.

If you’ve ever watched a chameleon climb before, then you’ve probably noticed their peculiar feet. They sport two fingers the point forward, and two that point backward. When used together, they can grasp branches much like our own hands, and this give them incredible grip when they’re moving around complex obstacles.

Another interesting aspect of the chameleon are its eyes, which can move independently. This means that each eye can focus on something different at the same time, offering a nearly unparalleled 360-degree field of vision. Furthermore, their eyes can see in the ultraviolet light spectrum, which is a particularly useful trait given that their skins respond to ultraviolet light. That said, they can find each other pretty easily in the dark.

Chameleons sure are interesting animals, but they often don’t get the attention they deserve.

Related: Not all iguanas are herbivores, but why?

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
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