Furcifer lateralisCarpet Chameleon, Jewel Chameleon

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Geographic Range

Furcifer lateralis is native to the island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, and its range encompasses much of the island (Glaw and Vences, 1994; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1995).

  • Biogeographic Regions
  • indian ocean

Habitat

Furcifer lateralis is strictly arboreal, and is particularly fond of small trees and shrubs. They are typically found at an altitude of 600-1200 meters, generally in areas of moderate shade and high humidity, with access to direct sunlight. This species has also infiltrated the cities of Madagascar, doing quite well in people's gardens and shrubs (Glaw and Vences, 1994; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1995).

Physical Description

Both male and female F. lateralis attain a maximum length of between 17-25 cm. Males are generally green with a white mid-lateral line and a series of dark bands extending from behind the head to the end of the tail. Females are generally heavier-bodied and more colorful (especially when gravid), with with dark bands and white or yellowish lateral ocelli and poorly defined orange mid-lateral stripe on a brownish background. The throat and lips of both sexes are usually striped. These chameleons can change color and intensity depending on mood and certain environmental factors (Glaw and Vences, 1994; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1995).

Reproduction

Furcifer lateralis matures in a very short period of time, and are generally able to reproduce by three months of age. Males tend to be very territorial, and usually attempt to attract females into their territory to mate. The females will then deposits the clutches of eggs in a depression that they dig into the soil. typical clutch size ranges from 8 to 23, and up to three clutches can be laid in one year. Incubation requires about six months at a temperature near 24°C (75°F) (Bartlett and Bartlett, 1995; Davidson, 1997).

Behavior

This species, as with most other chameleon species, is strictly diurnal. They generally spend the early part of the day warming up their bodies by assuming a very dark coloration and exposing as much surface area as possible to sunlight. after they have reached the desired body temperature, they begin hunting for prey, an activity which usually lasts for the rest of the daylight hours.

Males are highly territorial, and will go through a very elaborate array of posturing, color changes, and hissing in an attempt to scare off rival males. They will also chase away any females which are not in breeding condition.

Furcifer lateralis is a species which generally follows the same routine every day, to the point of even sleeping on the same branch every night.

Food Habits

Furcifer lateralis is almost entirely insectivorous, and prefers insects which normally reside in trees or shrubs. These include most flies, grasshoppers and crickets, and various insect larvae. Adult specimens are also known to consume very small lizards and even small newborn rodents (in captivity). This species hunts for food in the typical chameleon style of slowly creeping through tree or shrub branches, using its excellent eyesight to spot insects. As the desired prey is selected, F. lateralis will get as close to its prey as possible, and sieze it by quickly extending its tongue (which may equal the length of the lizard), capturing the insect on the sticky tip and then quickly retracting its tongue (Bartlett and Bartlett, 1995).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Furcifer lateralis is a relatively popular species in the American pet trade, with most individuals available today being captive bred.

Chameleons undoubtedly help to control insect populations in areas where they are common.

Conservation Status

Currently, F. lateralis is doing quite well in its native habitat, and even seems to be benefitting from some degree of habitat alteration. It has proven to be quite versatile by moving into urban areas and establishing populations there (Bartlett and Bartlett 1995).

Other Comments

The Carpet Chameleon, formerly known as Chamaeleo lateralis is a beautiful species that has been much in demand for the commercial pet trade. Wild-caught specimens entering the pet trade are often in poor health by the time they reach the retail markets, and mortality has been very high. Captive-bred young are easier to keep alive. These animals appear to have relatively short lifespans even under natural conditions, and few F. lateralis live longer than 3 years (Bartlett and Bartlett, 1995).

Contributors

Gregg Barcelow (author), Michigan State University, James Harding (editor), Michigan State University.

Glossary

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

native range

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

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

References

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

Davidson, L. 1997. Chameleons. Blaine, UK: Hancock House Publ..

Glaw, F., M. Vences. 1994. Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Madagascar, 2nd Ed.. Leverkusen, Germany: Moos Druck.