Habitat

Chameleon Care Guide

Chameleon Care Guide

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Chameleon habitat is as varied as the species in this diverse family of reptiles. One species, Chamaeleo namaquensis, lives in one of the most inhospitable regions on earth, the Namib Desert in Africa. This sturdy and aggressive chameleon tolerates extremely high temperatures by day and near freezing temperatures at night and lives a terrestrial existence near the sparse vegetation of sand dunes. Other species are far less tolerant of such extreme temperatures and require high humidity, particularly species that are montane or rainforest specialists. These species may not survive the

Common chameleons (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) on a thorny plant in Tunisia. (Photo by J.C. Carton/Carto. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

posing their body to sun or shade. Once they reach a comfortable temperature, they may begin seeking prey or lap dew or rain to quench thirst. A typical day is spent resting or seeking prey while keeping a watchful eye for predators as they move about in the environment. All moving objects must be analyzed as a potential threat. If the object advances in their direction, chameleons may move off into foliage or attempt to conceal themselves by swiveling behind their perches, known as "squirreling." The main predators of chameleons are birds and snakes.

At dusk chameleons seek a place to roost and sleep and often return to the same location every night. Many species roost at the ends of branches to sleep. Small species may wrap their tails around the stems and drape their bodies on top of large leaves, with their heads pointed down. If a predator

Panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) male and female copulating. Chamaeleonidae males have paired hemipenes (reproductive organs) that allow them to approach a female from either side and use the hemipene closest to the female for copulation. Fused toes that form grasping feet allow them to achieve mating even on a precarious perch high in a tree. (Photo by John H. Tashjian, courtesy of Texas Christian University. Reproduced by permission.)

Panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) male and female copulating. Chamaeleonidae males have paired hemipenes (reproductive organs) that allow them to approach a female from either side and use the hemipene closest to the female for copulation. Fused toes that form grasping feet allow them to achieve mating even on a precarious perch high in a tree. (Photo by John H. Tashjian, courtesy of Texas Christian University. Reproduced by permission.)

touches the branch, leaf, or plant, they release their grip and slide or drop to the ground and play dead or scurry into the underbrush.

Suitable chameleon habitat, whether disturbed or undisturbed, must include enough space to support a viable population of these often asocial and territorial reptiles. Males are usually intolerant of other males of the same species within visual proximity, especially during mating season. Females normally avoid males when they are gravid or unreceptive to mating. Habitat partitioning by height and life stage may relieve some of these pressures in dense populations within a restricted area of habitat, but conflicts can result in injuries or even death.

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