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Marilyn C Dailey, Ed.S

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The Real Chameleon
By Marilyn C Dailey, Ed.S   
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Last edited: Thursday, December 27, 2007
Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2007

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Have you ever wondered about the real chameleon? Now you can read about him.

Have you ever wondered about how a chameleon changes its color? Maybe I can help you. Letís pretend that weíre on a tour at the zoo. We have come to the reptile section. As we look up at one of the cages, it looks empty. Letís take a closer look. The sign says that the chameleon lives here. Oh course, the chameleon doesnít want us to see him. He camouflages himself or blends in with the grass in his cage.
Did you know that the word chameleon means "Earth lion"? It comes from the Greek word chami (on the earth) and leon (lion). The chameleons arrived mainly from Africa and Madagascar. It inhabits tropical rain forests and savannas. It is also found in trees and on small bushes. Some smaller species live on the ground under foliage.
The chameleon is a lizard-like animal. It can be from 1 inch to 36 inches long. You can recognize it sometimes by the horn-like projection on its head. You can also recognize it by a crest on its head. They are zygodactyl. This means that on each foot they have five toes. Their toes are fused together and form a tong-like foot. Each toe has a sharp claw for traction. They use their feet to grip tightly to narrow branches.
If you notice that chameleon has upper and lower eyelids are joined. It has a pin hole sized pupil. It can rotate and focus to locate their prey. They have a long tongue. Their tongues can be as long as their bodies. There is a sticky tip on the end of their tongue. Their tongue is formed into a suction. The chameleon can quickly pull it back into its mouth and eat its prey.
Some chameleons can change their skin color. Changing their color is an expression of their condition. It is also a part of communicating. They cannot really change to any color of its surroundings. They are naturally colored to camouflage in their surroundings. They have special cells called chromatophores under their outer skin. The top layer of this skin contains yellow and red pigments. There is also another layer called the iridophore that shows blue light. When the upper layer is yellow, the reflected light becomes green (yellow plus blue). When all the different pigments relocate, you have the color of the chameleon.
Generally, chameleons eat locusts, mantids, crickets, grasshoppers, and other insects. Larger chameleons eat small birds and other lizards. They all prefer running water to still water. It was believed at one time that they lived on air. They didnít eat any food at all.
There are two ways that chameleons reproduce. Some chameleons are called oviparous because they lay eggs. Others are called ovoviviparous because they give birth to live young. The small Bookesia chameleons lay 2-4 eggs that hatch after 4-12 months. While large Veiled chameleons lay 80-100 eggs that hatch after 4-12 months.
Some people prefer the chameleons as pets. This is not recommended. Usually the pet reptiles are the Panther, the Jackson, or the Veiled chameleon.
The next time you see the chameleon remember that it is a lizard-like animal that comes from Africa. It is known as the earth lion and its skin color changes. It eats small insects and birds. It can reproduce by laying eggs or by giving birth to its young.

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