I wanted to visit to Madagascar, first, for the Lemurs (See Jeff’s post on Madagascar’s Got Talent ), and second, for the Chameleons. The Chameleons are amazing for several reasons, and none of these reasons were what I expected. 

The amazing chameleon can change color

[photo by Jeff Dannay]

Growing up, I learned that Chameleons were lizards that could change color. I assumed this meant if the chameleon was in the leaves he’d be green, and he’d turn brown if he was on the ground. He would do this to blend in with his environment. This is not necessarily the case. What I didn’t know was they may change to a darker color to absorb more heat from the sun (to warm up) or a lighter color to reflect more light (cool down).  They may also change color depending on their mood or to attract a mate.

I’m just like a tree branch, grey. 

Moments later, the same chameleon changes to brown when among the leaves and shade. 

Turning red with anger? Red Male Panther Chameleon [Photo by Jeff]

Red or Green? I can’t decide.

The amazing chameleon has hands and feet

It makes sense that a chameleon has hands and feet to grip the branches, but it is something I never thought about. It is especially cool to see them grasp the branches as they walk.

Not only do they have hands and feet, but they also dance by rocking back and forth, one step forward and one step backward. This fellow was dancing.

Check out how he is holding on to the branch, and don’t miss how his color and pattern matches the leaves behind him. [Parson’s Chameleon]

The amazing chameleon has two eyes

Yes, of course the chameleon has two eyes, but did you know they can move each eye independently?

When I first observed the chameleon, I didn’t notice the tiny eyeball in the middle of the conical protrusion. When the chameleon was looking forward or backward, I thought his eyes were closed. I did not realize the whole eye moved. They can rotate each eye almost 180 degees up an down and back and forth and they can focus on two different things. The people of Madagascar have a saying, “Like the chameleon, one eye on the future and one eye on the past.” (1) 

Eyes forward towards the future

Looking at you


Eye to the past. Did I miss a bug? Is anyone following me?

The chameleon’s conical shaped eye that rotates is what separates them from other lizards, such as geckos.

Madagascar day gecko. He has to turn his whole head to see look around. 

The amazing chameleon has a fast tongue

The amazing chameleon has a tongue, and not just any tongue. It can accelerate 0-60mph in 1/100th of a second. Yes, you read this correcly. A chameleon’s tongue is faster than any sports car. This is another characteristic I never thought about, and if I hadn’t seen it, I would not have believed it. The tongue is also twice as long as his body. I wonder where he stores it?

If we had a tongue like that, ours would be 10-12 feet long! [Panther Chameleon]

The amazing chameleon comes in a variety of colors and shapes

When I was growing up, I assumed a chameleon was either green or brown depending on his or her environment. After all, there aren’t any chameleons in Massachusetts where I grew up. I never thought about there being dozens of types of chameleons, all different sizes, shapes and colors. I never imagined that there are over 150 different species with over half indigenous to Madagascar. I was amazed.

Some chameleons are beautiful in color.

I love the turquoise coloring.

I think this one is beautiful. I named him the Christmas Chameleon due to his red and green coloring. His pattern also looks the same as the red one above. Perhaps, they are the same chameleon?  [Panther Chameleon]

Some chameleons are less beautiful. I might go as far to say that some are downright ugly. If you were their mother, could you love these chameleons?

Perhaps, he is waiting for bug to fall from the sky?

This one looks prehistoric, like a dinosaur, don’t you think?

A face only a mother could love.

Green-Eared Chameleon

[Photo by Jeff]

Don’t you agree, chameleons are truly amazing!



  1. Additional notes from WildMadagascar.org