Veiled chameleon

Chameleon Care Guide

Chameleon Care Guide

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Chamaeleo calyptratus


Chamaeleo (Chamaeleo) calyptratus Dumeril & Bibron, 1851, Yemen and southwestern Saudi Arabia. One subspecies is recognized.


English: Cone-head chameleon, Yemen or Yemeni chameleon; German: Jemen-Chamäleon.


The species grows to 10-24 in (254-610 mm) in length. The most prominent feature is a high, prominent casque that is much larger in males than females and the tallest of any chameleon species. Male coloration is shades of green, turquoise, yellow, orange, white, and black with bold stripes and spots. Nongravid females are green with pale patterning, but gravid females display vivid yellow, blue, and green spots and patterns against a dark background. Juveniles are green at birth, and their sex is distinguished easily by the presence of a short, fleshy projection called a tarsal spur on the hind feet of males. It produces audible sounds.

Although the subspecies Chamaeleo calyptratus calcarifer (Peters, 1871) was still considered valid in 1997, there is anecdotal evidence that it is a hybrid of Ch. calyptratus and Ch. arabicus (Matschie, 1893); this requires further investigation.


Ch. c. calyptratus occurs in Yemen, centered around Ta'izz and Ibb. Ch. c. calcarifer inhabits Saudi Arabia and possibly Yemen.


The veiled chameleon primarily utilizes Acacia species in areas of heavy cultivation and exotic plantations, such as Catha edulis. The climate is arid, but the habitat is the greenest part of the Arabian Peninsula, and these chameleons usually are found near a water source.


The veiled chameleon is considered very aggressive and defensive toward members of its species (conspecifics) and humans. Males can inflict serious injuries or death in territorial or courtship disputes. An adult at the Dallas Zoo attacked a mirror and regularly coiled and uncoiled his tail while threatening his image.


The species feeds on insects, some vertebrates, and significant amounts of vegetation, particularly acacia.


Courtship consists of head bobbing, intensified coloring, and approaching the female with a jerky gait. Females unreceptive to mating may gape, swing from side to side, hiss, or even attack the males. Receptive females slowly move off but allow the male to mount and copulate. Males may become aggressive and are known to head butt or bite, sometimes causing grave injury to females.


Not listed by the IUCN, but listed on CITES Appendix II. In 2001 it was not considered rare within its range and is adapted to highly disturbed habitat in close proximity to humans. Reports of increasing use of agricultural pesticides may have a detrimental impact on future abundance.


Fewer than 10,000 wild-taken specimens were exported for the commercial pet trade from 1985 to 1999. The species reproduced consistently in captivity and is well established in her-petoculture. ♦

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