|The chameleon is unique among reptiles because
of its ability to change color. This adaptation allows it to both catch
prey and avoid predators. The common chameleon lives in the forests along
the coast of North Africa extending to the Middle East and along the coast
of southern Spain. It spends most of the day motionless in the trees, waiting
for unsuspecting insects and spiders to pass by.
Breeding: The chameleon leads a solitary existence and will seek out the company of other chameleons only during the breeding season. The male guards his territory fiercely against rival males and frighten them off by inflating his lungs and puffing up his body. Mating takes place in the trees, during which time the femaleís eggs are fertilized inside her body. When she is ready to lay her eggs in the late summer, the female chooses a warm spot at the base of a tree where she deposits up to thirty eggs. After covering them with soil, she returns to the treetops and leaves the eggs to develop unattended. Inside its shell, each young chameleon feeds on the yolk sac, the same way in which a henís chick does. When it is ready to hatch in the following spring, the young breaks out of its shell with the use of its egg tooth. When it is hatched, the young chameleon looks like a smaller version of its parents.
Food and Hunting: The chameleon is a master of disguise. It can change color to blend in with its surroundings and is unrecognizable to the spiders and insects it catches. Without moving its body, the chameleon uses its eyes to locate prey. Once it spots its prey, the chameleon flicks out its sticky tongue and catches the insect. Fully extended, the chameleonís tongue is as long as its body. The chameleonís ability to change color also helps it to stay hidden from its predators.
Defense: The chameleonís ability to change color is its primary defense against predators. Each chameleon has a basic color which broadly matches its habitat. Changes in its color are subtle and correspond to changes in light and shadows. Beneath its transparent skin, the chameleon has red and yellow color cells that reflect the blue and white layers below them. Under these layers is yet another layer of brown pigment. Color changes occur when the color cells become larger or smaller, regulating the amount of multicolored reflection each layer produces. Its remarkable swiveling eyes give the chameleon all around vision.
Special Adaptations: The ability to change color is not the chameleonís only special feature. Its eyes can focus together, like human eyes, or separately, to observe two different objects simultaneously. Because of the narrow structure of the chameleonís lungs and ribs, its body is very thin. This, and the fact that its color is almost identical to its surroundings, makes the chameleon almost invisible. Its long tail is prehensile Ė that is, it can be used as a fifth limb for gripping and balancing. Its tongue is also specially adapted to catch prey.
Related Species: There are about 100 species
of chameleon. The largest is about 2 ft. long, and the smallest 2 in. The
larger species will catch lizards, small mammals, and birds.
The Chameleonís Adaptations for Hunting:
Did You Know:
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