Sunday, March 10, 2013


Chameleons (Chamaeleo chamaleon)

The chameleon is a territorial creature. A few days after hatching it starts to defend a territory. An adult chameleon will chase away any potential enemy, which it can see from as far away as one metre, and thus one does not normally see chameleons in pairs unless they are approaching each other to mate.

This weekend I found such a couple at Wied Qannotta near Burmarrad. I saw a chameleon resting on the side of a rubble wall. As I was about to take a picture I realised that just behind it, hidden behind some leaves, there was another chameleon. The first chameleon was larger and plumper.

It was a uniform orange-brown. The second chameleon was very thin and had more contrasting colouration mainly brown and light brown. 

The front chameleon started to walk slowly along the wall moving from one stone to another carefully testing every step and continuously turning its eye backwards to look at the second chameleon, which was following closely behind. I observed this behaviour for quite some time as the pair moved along the wall for a distance of about five metres. The second chameleon was never more than a couple centimetres behind and several times while walking grasped the other chameleon’s tail.

At one point they disappeared over the wall but appeared immediately after to continue with their journey. They then entered into a spiny asparagus bush, which was growing out of the wall and disappeared inside. I waited in vain for them to come out again but they failed to appear. 
Female chameleons are said to be larger than males. Males are brownish and females greenish but their colour change according to needs and circumstances. The colours can range from black to light yellow sometimes seeming to be orange, red or blue. Colour change depend on several factors the foremost being body temperature. The side facing the sun is usually darker as dark colours absorb heat better than lighter colours. Colours also change when it is afraid or irritated and when a male approaches a female.

Males start approaching females in July. If a female is not prepared for mating she moves away from an approaching male while one that has already been mated changes colour to show her state thus informing other males that they should not approach her. She lays the eggs from October to early December. The exact timing depends on the surrounding environment, as the eggs need higher humidity and the lower temperature both of which depend on the arrival of the first rains of the season. 

This article was published in The Times on 26 August 2009. 

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