Petkeen is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn More

10 Fascinating & Fun Chameleon Facts You Never Knew

Nicole Cosgrove

Chameleons are known as the color-changing champions of the reptile world. This claim to fame has made these colorful creatures a favorite of reptile enthusiasts worldwide. While most of us simply think of chameleons as cute reptiles to bring home and make our new best friends, these creatures are quite fascinating. If you’d like to learn a few fun and fascinating chameleon facts you never knew, continue reading below and get to know these colorful reptiles better.divider- chameleon

Meet the Incredible Chameleon

Getting to know chameleons can be fun and exciting. These reptiles have several unique characteristics that make them famous in the reptile world. The most talked-about is, of course, their color-changing abilities.

Most people think chameleons change to mimic their surroundings. There is a lot more to it than that. Chameleons change colors to show their emotions. If they are scared or angry, their colors will adjust to their mood. Chameleons also change colors due to changes in temperature, lighting, and even humidity levels.

The changing of color comes from the ability of chameleons to excite and relax their skin. This change takes place at a cellular level. By having the ability to control their iridophore cells, the color change can take place quickly and leave bystanders amazed at what they are seeing.

Where Are Chameleons Found?

As part of the Iguana suborder, chameleons are found in several parts of the world. Most of the 202 species of chameleons are found in Spain, Portugal, Africa, and Asia. When in their natural habitat, chameleons love spending their time in rainforests, steppes, semi-desserts, and savannahs. While certain species live on the ground, most chameleons prefer to live their lives in the trees and bushes.divider- chameleon

Fascinating and Fun Chameleon Facts

Now that you’ve met the amazing chameleon, let’s learn some less-known facts. This will help you better understand how incredible these reptiles truly are and appreciate their place in the animal kingdom.

1. Chameleons See It All

chameleon eating insect
Image Credit: kolibri5, Pixabay

The chameleon is a creature that quite literally has eyes in the back of its head. Alright, this is a slight exaggeration, but they do have the special ability to move each of their eyes independently from one another. This gives them a full 360 degrees of vision. This allows chameleons to see predators coming from any angle, even from behind, and get to safety quickly.


2. Chameleons Come in All Sizes

panther chameleon
Image: Wikipedia

Chameleons come in a lot of different sizes. The smallest chameleon is the Brookesia micra chameleon. This tiny reptile is only 0.5 inches. On the other end of the scale is the Malagasy giant chameleon. These reptiles have been known to grow up to 27.5 inches long. Both of these species of chameleon are native to Madagascar and show the wide range of sizes people may encounter.


3. The Hotter the Better for Chameleons

Fischer's,Chameleon,(kinyongia,Fischeri,),Is,A,Species,Of,Chameleon,
Image credit: Milan Zygmunt, Shuttertstock

Madagascar, home to 59 chameleon species that are found nowhere else in the world, is quite warm. This is why so many chameleons call this area home. Chameleons prefer tropical climates and Madagascar gives them this.


4. They Have Strange Appetites

Ambilobe panther chameleon
Image Credit: aixklusiv, Pixabay

Chameleons have strange appetites. While most species prefer to simply eat insects, others like variety in their diet. Foliage and fruits are common foods for some chameleons. Others don’t mind being a bit carnivorous and feed on small birds and smaller-sized chameleons.


5. They Have the Ability to Hold On Tight

Kynsa dwarf chameleon
Image Credit: Etienne Marais, Pixabay

A chameleon’s toes are what helps it hold onto the trees they prefer to live in. A chameleon has 5 toes on each foot. These toes are bunched together while the toes on the hind feet are reversed. Coupled with a sharp nail on each toe, this helps chameleons hold on to trees and their bark.

Chameleons have a prehensile tail. These tails are designed to wrap themselves around a tree limb or branch several times. This handy addition helps chameleons take tree-hugging to an all-new level.


6. Chameleons Have a Powerhouse Tongue

rudis chameleon hanging on a branch
Image Credit: FrankWinkler, Pixabay

A chameleon’s tongue is quite long and powerful. Not including the tail, their tongues can reach up to twice the length of their bodies. Consisting of muscle and bone, these tongues can bend and make it easier to catch prey. When feeding, a chameleon’s tongue shoots out an amazing speed making it nearly impossible for its prey to escape.


7. Color Helps Mating

Jackson’s Chameleon
Image Credit: WikiImages, Pixabay

The human and animal worlds aren’t as different as you may think—especially when it comes to mating. Male chameleons who look better (brighter, richer colors) have the best shot of attracting a mate. All male chameleons have spikes and horns that set them apart from females.


8. They Can See Ultraviolet Light

Carpet Chameleons
Image Credit: Ondrej Prosicky, Shutterstock

With their 360 degrees of vision, chameleons can see quite well, but amazingly, they can also see ultraviolet light. This light is invisible to humans, but these colorful creatures excel in it. Ultraviolet light can even help chameleons reproduce and become more sociable.


9. Hatching Is a Slow Process

Fischer's Chameleon-Unsplash
Image credit: C. Brasseur (Unsplash)

When mother chameleons lay their eggs it takes anywhere from 4 to 6 months for the eggs to hatch. One species of chameleon, the Parsons chameleon, takes up to 24 months for its eggs to hatch.


10. They Have Fairly Short Lives

pygmy chameleon on finger
Image Credit: Nick Henn, Shutterstock

Although chameleons take a bit of time to hatch from their eggs, their lives are relatively short. In captivity, chameleons have been known to live up to 10 years, while some pass away in as short as 2 years. In the wild, chameleons can survive slightly longer but their lifespan is still considered quite short.

divider- chameleon

The Wonderful Chameleon

Now that you know these 10 fascinating and fun facts about chameleons you can decide whether you want to bring one of these amazing creatures into your life. Whether you enjoy them in their natural habitat or as part of your family, chameleons are fun, interesting, and worthy of respect.  Remember to always show these colorful creatures the respect they deserve. Like with all other animals, this is their world too.


Featured Image Credit: Adina Voicu, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.