Chamaeleo calyptratusVeiled Chameleon

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Geographic Range

Border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia: The veiled chameleon occupies high, dry plateaus and is found near the border of Yemen and Saudi Arabia along the foot of the escarpment and local wadis (inland river valley), to an elevation of almost 3,000 feet.

Habitat

Veiled chameleons are arboreal lizards, meaning they prefer to live high up in trees or lower near the ground in bushes and shrubs. They can live in dry areas and are found on plateaus of mountainous regions, forests and valleys of southern Saudi Arabia and Yemen. They are one of the few species of chameleons which can tolerate wide temperate ranges, though they prefer to live in a temperature range of 75 to 95 degrees F.

Physical Description

The veiled chameleon is characterized as an aggressive, brightly colored chameleon. They have a casque found on top of their heads, which is a tiny swelling when a hatchling, but grows to two inches in height. They typically have bold bands circling their body primarily of bright gold, green and blue mixed with yellow, orange or black. They also have very long cones on their gular crest. There is sexual dimorphism.

Males have a larger body and casque (head crest or helmet) when mature. They are born with tarsal spurs which makes sexing them very easy. Male body length can reach between 17 to 24 inches from head to the tip of the tail. Pastel green as hatchlings, mature males will develop a pattern of several colors such as turquoise, yellow, orange, green and black. They are also usually thin in appearance. Females have a smaller head and casque, and reach their full growth between 10 to 14 inches, within their first year. The female's casque is smaller than the males, but they are heavy bodied. Mature females are shades of green mottled with shades of tan, orange, white, and sometimes yellow (Crabtree, 1999).

Reproduction

The lifespan of a veiled chameleon is usually five years for females and up to eight years for males (Crabtree, 1999). They reach sexual maturity within 4 to 5 months (8-12 inches). During the breeding season, females turn from their usual light green to a blackish-green with blue and yellow spots on their bodies within 18 hours of a successful mating. Egg laying will occur between 20 - 30 days after mating. Their typical clutch size is 35 - 85 eggs, and breeding may occur up to three times a year.

Behavior

Veiled chameleons are shy in nature. When startled or feeling threatened they may curl into a tight fetal position, darken in color, and "play possum". Like opossums, it takes a considerable time until they feel secure enough to unfold and begin moving about again. However, veiled chameleons are very aggressive towards each other. They prefer to live a solitary life. Males are very territorial and should always be separated. However, females can be in close proximity of each other at any time except during breeding season. Males and females only tolerate each other when ready to breed.

Food Habits

The veiled chameleon is an insectivore. They have the ability to capture prey by projecting their sticky tongue. Their tongues are also used for smell and taste. They have also been observed as having a preference for certain prey types. Green insects seem to be a favorite. However, they are one of the few chameleons that also enjoy the taste of plants. They adapted to eating leaves of plants as a source of water during the dry seasons (Crabtree, 1999).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Live and dead chameleons are sold for rituals and souvenirs.

Conservation Status

Wild chameleon populations are experiencing growing pressures on a variety of fronts, causing some environmentalists to sound alarms concerning the long-term survival of these animals. It is yet to be seen whether these chameleons will be able to withstand large-scale commercial exploitation and extensive habitat loss.

Growing human populations in their native habitat causes increasing competition for economic resources. Land is consumed to house growing human populations. Land previously considered sacred is cleared, burned, mined or logged to exploit natural

resource for its current economic value. Chameleon populations are ultra-sensitive to the problems associated with habitat loss.

Due to their slow-moving nature, and their inability to relocate quickly, chameleons have evolved in small, often isolated pockets. To these small, isolated populations, habitat loss can prove to be disastrous. Chameleons are exploited by the locals in their native habitat, and by foreigners. Locally, they are sold live to be used for a variety of purposes. Some natives believe that throwing a live chameleon into a fire will bring them good luck. Chameleon parts are sometimes sold to be used in magic rituals. Growing demand by tourists for chameleon body parts (which are sold a souvenirs) adds yet another demand for chameleons in the local markets (Fry, 1997).

Contributors

Ebony Jones (author), Michigan State University, James Harding (editor), Michigan State University.

Glossary

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

References

Bartlett, R., P. Bartlett. 1995. Chameleons. Hauppauge, New York: Barron's Educational Series, Inc..

Crabtree, W. 1999. "Lizard Lane" (On-line). Accessed 9/20/99 at Http://members.tripod.com/~lizardlane/.

Fry, M. 1995-1997. "Chameleons" (On-line). Accessed 12/10/99 at Http://www.skypoint.com/members/mikefry/chams.html.