Chameleons – Facts and Myths

music
ambience Madagascar Forest
Chameleons are found in and around Africa and India. They’re also well established in our imaginations. But as remarkable as they are, many of the traits we attribute to chameleons are myths. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

“Chameleons are amazing lizards. They are very highly adapted for a life in the trees.”

Christopher Raxworthy is the associate curator of Herpetology at the American Museum of Natural History.

“You actually find their hands and feet are adapted for gripping branches. They’ve fused their fingers and toes together, so they actually create a pincer-type arrangement with both the feet and the hands for specifically gripping on branches. They have these large heads with independent rotating eyes and a spectacular prehensile tale which is used for climbing. But perhaps the most remarkable thing about them is the tongue, which in most species can be extended to twice the length of the body, and that is quite a feat. If you see a chameleon using his tongue, it’s an incredibly impressive and lethal weapon. And the largest chameleons in Madagascar will actually even feed on small birds using this tongue.”
“The color changes of chameleons are well known and well loved, but they’re also somewhat misunderstood and even exaggerated. In fact, chameleons, although they can change their colors quite dramatically, most people think that color change is associated with camouflage or hiding. And in actual fact, one of the main functions of chameleon color change is actually communication . It’s all about, for example, males showing off their dominance over other males, and also for example, females displaying whether they are receptive for mating or preparing for egg laying. So really chameleon color is as much about communication as it is about hiding.”

Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner. music

Chameleons - Facts and Myths

The chameleon's ability to change color has as much to do with communication as it does with camouflage..
Air Date:09/20/2005
Scientist:
Transcript:

music
ambience Madagascar Forest
Chameleons are found in and around Africa and India. They're also well established in our imaginations. But as remarkable as they are, many of the traits we attribute to chameleons are myths. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

"Chameleons are amazing lizards. They are very highly adapted for a life in the trees."

Christopher Raxworthy is the associate curator of Herpetology at the American Museum of Natural History.

"You actually find their hands and feet are adapted for gripping branches. They've fused their fingers and toes together, so they actually create a pincer-type arrangement with both the feet and the hands for specifically gripping on branches. They have these large heads with independent rotating eyes and a spectacular prehensile tale which is used for climbing. But perhaps the most remarkable thing about them is the tongue, which in most species can be extended to twice the length of the body, and that is quite a feat. If you see a chameleon using his tongue, it's an incredibly impressive and lethal weapon. And the largest chameleons in Madagascar will actually even feed on small birds using this tongue."
"The color changes of chameleons are well known and well loved, but they're also somewhat misunderstood and even exaggerated. In fact, chameleons, although they can change their colors quite dramatically, most people think that color change is associated with camouflage or hiding. And in actual fact, one of the main functions of chameleon color change is actually communication . It's all about, for example, males showing off their dominance over other males, and also for example, females displaying whether they are receptive for mating or preparing for egg laying. So really chameleon color is as much about communication as it is about hiding."

Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner. music