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5 Cool Facts about Meller's & Pygmy Chameleons

Learn five cool facts about Meller's chameleons and pygmy chameleons from reptile and amphibian expert Jungle Bob in this Howcast video.

Transcript

We find chameleons only in certain parts of the world and they're confined, really, to the island of Madagascar and the eastern part of Africa, which Madagascar is right at the coast. So, they really evolve in that area of the world and that area only. And there's a wide variety of types.

Unfortunately, again, most chameleons are in trouble. There's all kinds of myths associated with them. In the island of Madagascar, natives there think they're venomous and they can bite you and they can kill you, and this of course is folly. They're really peaceful creatures who want to be left alone and everything about them is, again, about trying to hide.

What we have here is a really interesting twosome of the big guy on the left here is the Meller's Chameleon and you'll find him in the rain forest of Africa. And you could see, even as we're talking, he's throwing out all kinds of colors. When we first started talking, he didn't have those black spots. If he gets irritated, if he feels like he's being exposed, he may just darken up or lighten up certain patterns on his body. If you could see how dark he is right there because the light is on that side.

On the other side of the animal it's not as dark. So, he can move each scale of his body and change the pigmentation of it in an effort to escape being seen, whether it's from a predator or from the light we have from the camera. One or the other. Dark on one side, light on the other. That's about as much a chameleon can do. A male n combat mode will throw out all kinds of colors and a female who's gravid or pregnant will throw out colors again.

That is I'm already pregnant, don't bother me boys. That's what she does to ward off people. Ward off a potential mate. What we have here on the other side, if you can even see it because it's so small, this is the smallest chameleon, while the Mellers is one of the biggest. This is the pygmy chameleon. And this animal has got an amazing story in that what he is, if he could stay still, is a leaf mimic.

If you look at his body, the lateral shape of it, with that little tiny tail, it looks like a leaf. Don't step on him. He looks like a leaf and you'll find these animals really in the understory of bushes and trees. He likes to hang on dead branches and really sit among sometimes the dead leaves. That's the way he can camouflage himself. He does not have the ability of his chameleon cousin here of changing to all those fantastic colors.

He is pretty much going to go from brown to green and back again. But just by being able to sit there still, he's kind of looking like the branch right now. And then the lateral shape of his body looking like a leaf, a predator would go right by him and not even see him. And that's how he lives in a very inhospitable area of the African forest.

Pygmy chameleons in general, very, very short lived animals, live almost insect-like in their life cycle. They breed quickly. Six months old they're already throwing out eggs and they drop eggs their whole lives in the leaf litter in the bottom of the bush. And they're born very, very quickly and proliferate quickly because, unfortunately for them, they're food to almost everything.

But they are insect eaters in their own right and are making interesting terrarium subjects now that people are understanding their habitat and how they should be kept. So, chameleons are absolutely wonders of nature. Their independently rotating eyes, their ability to grasp onto branches perfectly, their ability to change colors and their amazing tongue mechanism to search for and grab their food, make them very, very unique, not only in the reptile and lizard world but in the animal kingdom. Chameleons. You can't make this stuff up.

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