Common Chameleon - BIO 203
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Form and Function

Feet and Tail

The Common Chameleon has evolved into the perfect tree inhabitant, with avid adaptations such as their strong prehensile tail and grasping digits (Keren-Rotem et al. 2006).  Chameleons' feet are uniquely structured by having a separation between their second and third digits. One group of digits is  rotated inwards while the others are rotated outwards making them perfectly adapted to grasp round tree branches. The Common  Chameleons' strong prehensile tails helps to provide extra support by wrapping around the branches shown in the picture below. With these adaptations they are able to cling onto branches and move freely through the trees. These adaptations are also helpful when it comes to avoiding predators like the bamboo pit viper (Trimeresurus gramineus) by allowing them to safely rotate around the tree branch to hide (Lustig et al. 2012).



Chameleons have lateralization of their eyes which means that both eyes do not always move with each other.  The Chameleons' eye move in respond to stimuli, therefor if they sense movement on their left the left eye would move. Although the eyes appear to be looking in different directions the chameleon can only see out of the one responding to the stimuli (Lustig et al. 2012).  This is advantageous for the Chameleon because it allows the Chameleon to identify predators without having to move anything but one eye. 


Chameleons are capable of fast camouflage called "physiological color change" which is controlled by the neuroendocrine system stimulating the chromatophores organelle causing a change of its pigment granules (Stuart-Fox and Moussalli 2009). Camouflage is a vital adaptation for the common chameleon; it not only protects them from predator but also allows them to sneak up on their prey  (Cuadrado et al. 2008, Keren-Rotem et al. 2006).


Chameleons are also well known for their extremely long tongues which they use to capture prey such as as insects (Lustig et al. 2012). Chameleons can rapidly project their tongues in under a second in order to catch their prey, such as flies, like the Sarcapohaga carnaria, native to the Mediterranean area. This adaptation is extremely advantageous to the chameleons as they are extremely slow moving lizards.  

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To learn more  the Common Chameleon life cycle go to Reproduction >>

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