Scientific Name– Chamaeleo calyptratus
Conservation Status– Least Concern
The veiled chameleon is a brightly coloured reptile. At the start of their lives their skin is pastel green. Over their life this becomes striped with white, orange, yellow or tan. Male chameleons are brighter with their yellows and blues being more defined. Their colour is affected by social status, stress and the stage of their reproductive cycle for females. On the head is a bump known as a casque which reaches about 5cm (2in) tall in adults. Female chameleons are smaller than males. The eyes are a pair of half spheres which lie on the head. These are able to move independently and turn in their socket. The inside of the mouth is yellow. Inside is a tongue which may be up to 1.5 times the length of the head and body.
From the head to the end of the tail male veiled chameleons measure 43-61cm (16-24in). Females are smaller rarely exceeding 35cm (13.8in). The casque of these females is also smaller.
Female veiled chameleons live for up to 5 years while males may achieve ages up to 8 years.
Veiled chameleons are omnivores. Most of their diet is made up of insects including flies, butterflies, caterpillars, worms and slugs. They also enjoy young shoots and blossoms. Most of their consumption of plants is not for nutrition but hydration.
Yemen and Saudi Arabia are the traditional homes of the veiled chameleon. They are found in the greener portions of these areas. Chameleons have also been introduced to Hawaii and Florida.
Areas with a tropical or sub-tropical climate are the normal habitat for veiled chameleons. They live on mountain sides and in river valleys. The trees they are most partial to are the acacias.
Sexual maturity is achieved by veiled chameleons at 4-5 months of age. The breeding season is dependent on climatic conditions. When there is large amounts of rainfall breeding takes place all year. It is limited to September and October in drier areas.
Males are fiercely territorial and will fight off males especially around mating time. To scare predators they flash different colours, curl and uncurl their tails and then stand alongside the opponent. They will flatten out their body and inflate the throat pouch before gripping the others legs. As the fight intensifies they will headbutt, bite and cause other wounds. One male will concede defeat by darkening in colour and puffing down.
Females will also fight off unwanted male advances. This achieved by turning bright green with blue and yellow spots. Similar to males they flatten out, hiss and sway from side to side. Occasionally though the female shows these signs as a way of saying she wants to mate. The male sits motionless nearby and waits till he knows she is receptive. Once she is ready he climbs onto her and mating begins. This may take place several times over the following days. She will darken once she wants to stop.
Females may lay up to three clutches each year and can delay the implantation of the eggs. After 20-30 days a clutch of eggs is laid. The average clutch of eggs contains 35 to 85 white, oval shaped eggs which have a hard shell. They are deposited in a small hole which the female digs in the ground. Depending on temperature the eggs may take 150-190 days to hatch. The higher the temperature is the quicker they hatch.
It may take up to a day for the hatchling to break free from the egg. There is a tiny swelling on the head where the casque will grow and they are pastel green. Many do not live to adulthood due to heavy predation.
The male chameleon is a solitary species which only tolerates females in the territory for breeding.
Snakes and birds prey upon the veiled chameleon.
The chameleon lives an arboreal lifestyle meaning they mostly live in the trees. Their hands work much like those of humans so they can grip. The tails is also used to help grip the trees. They have a flat body which is leaf shaped to camouflage with the trees. When walking along branches they sway from side to side to look like a leaf. They stay still and wait for prey to approach them. Their long tongue allows them to do this.
The eyes can rotate 180o and swivel independent of each other. This means that they look in any direction and never move their head. Both eyes must focus in the same place for them to perceive depth though.
The veiled chameleon is a commonly kept pet.
Some legends say that throwing a chameleon into a fire brings good luck.
Other names for the veiled chameleon include Yemen and cone-head chameleon.
Top – By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Bottom – By Steven G. Johnson (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons