10 Different Types of Chameleons

Different Types of Chameleons
Photo by Sindy Strife

Chameleons are beautiful creatures that come in various sizes, shapes, and colors. There are many different types of chameleons worldwide, with over 200 species of chameleons.

Some are kept as pets, while the majority are in the wild. Those kept as pets require special care and attention to be happy and healthy.

Chameleons belong to the family Chamaeleonidae. They like to live in warm, tropical regions. Hence, most species live in Madagascar and Africa. 

Some species are found in the Middle East, while a few can be found on the islands in the Indian Ocean. One species -the Indian chameleon, can be found in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

Another species, -the common chameleon, hails from Spain, Portugal, and the islands in the Mediterranean Sea.

Chameleons are not only beautiful but mysterious creatures. Some chameleons have mysterious looks about them because of the crests on their brow and snout resembling a dinosaur. 

Some people consider this old-world creature mysterious because of certain factors. Let’s look at some of these factors.

Some Unique Attributes of Chameleon

a. Capability of Changing Color

One of the most astonishing factors about these creatures is their ability to change the color of their skin. All the different types of chameleons are capable of doing this. 

Although this mechanism is an adaptation technique to camouflage and blend to evade predators, it also signals a chameleon’s physiological condition and intent toward other chameleons.

For example, their mood, social signaling (e.g., the female chameleon changes colors based on their reception of a mate), changes in light or temperature, or the humidity of their environment.

b. Independent Mobile Eyes

They have the most distinctive eyes among the various reptile. They can move their eyes separately, which means they can see 360 degrees if they need. 

This mysterious fact means they can see predators coming from behind them, giving them a chance to escape.

c. Long Tongue

A chameleon’s tongue can be as long as its body; some chameleons’ tongues can be twice the length of their body. Their tongue consists of muscles and bones, which they can bend around to grab their prey.

d. Astonishing Feet and Tail

Chameleons have zygodactylous feet that somehow resemble the functions of human hands (opposable digits on the front and back feet).

For the tail, most chameleon species have a prehensile tail. For this reason, the chameleon’s tail cannot be broken off and regrown like many other lizards.

These are some of the mysterious and exciting facts about this gorgeous creature. Now, let us look at some of the different types of chameleons.

Different Types of Chameleons

1. Four-Horned Chameleon

The four-horned chameleon with the scientific moniker –Trioceros quadricornis is native to the mountainous rainforests of Cameroon in Central Africa. This is among the different types of chameleons.

Just as its name suggests, it has four protruding horns. It also has a distinctive scaly “beard,” large crest, and sail fin. The scaly beard accounts for why this chameleon is also known as the Cameroonian Bearded.

They are highly sensitive, challenging to look after, require high humidity, and are susceptible to dehydration. However, once their needs are met, they are hardy species that are well-worth keeping.

The chameleon grows 10-14 inches and can live up to 5 years. The colors of the four-horned chameleon are muted, unlike other chameleons. It comes in natural shades of red and yellow, sometimes displaying purple, blue, or orange tones.

Keeping them as pets may be difficult for beginners because they are sensitive to high temperatures and low humidity. Once their basic environmental needs are met, they become malleable. 

2. Veiled Chameleon

The veiled chameleon, classified scientifically as Chamaeleo calyptratus, is quite popular and known for the helmet-like crown on its head and beautiful colors.

This chameleon is native to Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula; no wonder they are also called Yemen Chameleons.

The ‘casque’ (helmet-like crown on top of their heads shaped like a cone) is more extensive in males than in females.

Veiled chameleons grow to a size of 10 – 24 inches and can live up to 5 years. Their body has beautiful, vivid patterning. They are primarily green, but they often have vertical stripes of yellow, brown, or even pale blue.

This species make great pets, too but are not as easy to handle as the panther chameleon because they don’t like to be held. 

Veiled chameleons are hardy, tolerate a decent range of temperatures, and will thermoregulate whenever they need some adjusting. They are insectivores and a voracious eater.

3. Jackson Chameleon

The Jackson Chameleon, known scientifically as Trioceros jacksonii, is also one of the different types of chameleons to be examined here. This specie hails from Kenya and Tanzania in Eastern Africa.

The generic name- Trioceros, derived from the Greek τρί- (tri-) meaning “three” and κέρας (kéras) meaning “horns,” is quite evident in its appearance.

This specie has three horns which account for why they are sometimes referred to as three-horned chameleons.

Apart from the horns, these chameleons also have thick spiny ridges running along the back. The males are more colorful than the females. This specie is primarily green, but you may also see splashes of blue or yellow. 

They are calm and make lovely pets. They should be handled with care, though.

4. Panther Chameleon

Panther Chameleon is known scientifically as  Furcifer pardalis, and they are one of the most popular among the different types of Chameleons. Their popularity stems from their beautiful color pattern and ease of handling as a pet.

Endemic to the island of Madagascar off the coast of Africa, these chameleons are on the large side and can grow up to 20 inches. The males have ridges along each side of the head and grow larger than females.

The males measure 12-20 and the females 8-14, with a lifespan of 2-3years. Although with proper care as a pet, they can live up to 7 years.

Considered quite colorful, these lizards change their color to communicate with one another and absorb radiant heat.

They can be just about any color you can imagine. From green to yellow, to neon blue, and anything in between, with the males being more colorful than the females.

Panther chameleons change colors dramatically when facing a rival male, while the female generally has softer hues when ready for breeding.

They have a calmer disposition compared to veiled chameleons, making them relatively easy to care for as pets and most tolerant of handling and interaction.

This specie also has good memory recall, can quickly memorize feeding schedules, and recognize their owners.

They are insectivores, and their diet mainly consists of various animals like waxworms, grasshoppers, roaches, flies, crickets, mealworms, bees, beetles, and other small insects. 

5. Pygmy Chameleon

Pygmy Chameleon is known by the botanical name- Rhampoleon sp. Just as their name suggests, pygmy chameleons are tiny. They are one of the smallest among the different types of chameleons. Most adults grow up to 3.5 inches at most.

The Pygmy chameleons can be found in the forests, woodlands, thickets, and savannas of central East Africa.

Apart from their size, this chameleon has short stumpy tails, unlike most chameleons with long, prehensile tails to help with climbing and living in trees.

The Pygmy chameleons spend a more significant portion of their time in leaf litter; hence they do not need the long prehensile tails to grip onto tree branches.

They do not have the bright colors of most chameleons either. They have muted colors like browns and greys that lets them blend in with the forest floor. 

Pygmy chameleons are lovely pets to keep too. They are not aggressive, tolerate the company reasonably well, and can be kept in groups.

6. Carpet Chameleon

The Carpet Chameleon (Furcifer lateralis) is native to the forests of Madagascar, which are lush with vegetation.

They are widespread and live in many habitats, like deserts, rainforests, and high altitudes. The Carpet Chameleon gets its name from the unique markings all over its body, which consist of spots, stripes, and circles that resemble oriental carpets.

They are also known as the Jeweled Chameleon or White-Lined chameleon. They are beautiful, but the females here are more ornate than males (which is unusual in the animal world), especially when they are gravid. 

The males of this species are usually green in color, while females can have patterns in green, white, yellow, orange, and red. They also have stripes on their throats and darker spots on their sides.

This species is a little on the small side compared to other pet chameleon species. The adult average only 4 inches snout to vent, but some can grow between 6-10 inches.

It has a lifespan of 2- 3 years but can live longer. Here, it would take great care, luck, and genetics for them to live longer than that.

Carpet chameleons are easy to care for with no special requirements. A good diet of insects keeps them well-fed as a pet. They tend to be shy and easily stressed, though. So, proper care and an excellent habitat are necessary to keep them healthy.

7. Meller Chameleon

The Meller Chameleon, classified as Trioceros melleri, is not just among the different types of chameleons but is the largest chameleon outside of Madagascar, growing up to two feet in length. They hail from the mountains of the East African countries of Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania. 

They grow up to 24 inches in length, specimens as large as 30 inches have also been documented. In the wild, they grow big enough to eat insects and small birds. They have a long life span and can live up to 7 years.

Their enormous size is not their only distinct attribute; they have horns too. But, unlike the Jackson chameleon with three horns, they have a single, small horn on the tip of their snout.

Hence, they are also known as the “giant one-horned chameleon.” They also have a signature scalloped ridge on the back and a stubby nose-like growth on their face.

This species is beautifully colored in lovely deep green, yellow, or even black spots or bands with a base color of forest green with white stripes.

 Like most chameleons, they also change their color according to the circumstances. When happy and healthy, these lizards take on shades of bright yellow and green. It dulls its color or develops black spots when they feel anxious or threatened. 

Keeping them as pets can be challenging due to their size, sensitive hydration, and humidity needs. They can be pretty aggressive too, and don’t do well when placed with other lizards.

Hence, they are best left to be handled by experts. Nevertheless, their looks and behavior make them fun to observe.

8. Oustalet Chameleon

Oustalet Chameleon, known by the botanical moniker- Furcifer Oustaleti, is one of the largest chameleons next to the Parson’s specie among the different types of chameleons.

This accounts for why they are also known as the Madagascar giant chameleon. These chameleons are primarily sedentary in the wild, staying still to evade predators, and are endemic to Madagascar.

They can be found in dry areas like deciduous forests, moist places like evergreen forests, high and low elevations, and even on agricultural land.

These chameleons have a prominent spinal ridge from the back of their neck to their tail and a dorsal spine from the snout to the eyes.

They appear in colors grey or brown with dark vertical bands along the body. Females can appear in shades of green, yellow, and even red coloration on the head and limbs. 

Contrary to their large size, these species are docile in temperament. Keeping them as pets can be pretty challenging due to their environmental needs. Nevertheless, once their needs are met, it becomes pretty easy to handle them.

They are omnivorous, with a  suction-cup-tipped tongue, which is almost as long as their body. They feed on insects, some fruits, and occasionally small birds.

9. Fischer Chameleon

This is considered one of the rarest species among the different types of chameleons. They are known by the scientific name Kinyongia fischeri ssp.

Fischer Chameleons are native to the Nguu mountain ranges of Tanzania. They have a lifespan of 3-5 years and are on the small side, with the adult height at 11 inches. 

Fischer chameleon is also called Monkey-Tailed Chameleons because of their very long tails. One distinct attribute of this species is the two horns on their nose covered in bumpy scales, known as tubercles.

They also have tall, rounded backs and a spine lined with soft spikes. These lizards take on a bright green color with patches of yellow and black. Accompanying the base color are vertical stripes of white. 

As a pet, they are timid and docile. They are easy to care for, with no special requirements; a green environment that imitates their natural habitat will do just fine.

Their docile nature, however, does not apply to housing two males together. The males will fight if housed together.

10. Senegal Chameleon

The technical name of this species is Chamaeleo senegalensis, which is popular among the different types of chameleons in the pet world due to its timid temperament and size.

They are bigger than Pygmys but smaller than species like the Panther. The Senegal chameleon is native to West Africa. Its range includes Senegal, Mali, Nigeria, and Cameroon.

You can’t find them in the lush rainforests of West Africa but in moist savannas. They’re used to more sun exposure and grassy environments.

They stay hydrated here by drinking off wet leaves and taking advantage of the moisture in the air. Being on the small side, they reach a maximum length of about eight inches and have a lifespan of 5years.

The Senegal chameleon has joined toes, conical eyes, and a long tongue. Its unique feature apart from size is its small neck flap and attractive color.

The chameleon has beautiful neon green colors, and some may take on a gray or bluish tone. Keeping them as a pet requires providing the ideal environment and diet.

Once this is done, caring for them becomes easy since they have a calm temperament. But then, like most chameleons, they tolerate a lot of handling.

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