Veiled Chameleon

Chamaeleo calyptratus

The veiled chameleon ( Chamaeleo calyptratus ) is a reptile that belongs to the Chamaeleonidae family. This species is characterized by having a hood on the head, which fulfills the function of collecting dew. These drops of water slide, until they reach the animal’s mouth. In addition, the hood is used to intimidate predators.

In addition, it has a prehensile tail, which helps the chameleon to balance while climbing the trees. In relation to their legs, they have adaptations that allow them to cling to branches, even if they are thin.

Regarding the coloration, the female is green with some white, orange or yellow spots. The male has brighter shades, including turquoise, yellow, orange, green, and black. Also, some have yellow or blue stripes or spots.

The cone-headed chameleon, as this species is also known, is native to Yemen and Saudi Arabia, on the Arabian peninsula. In these regions it lives mainly on plateaus, mountains, forests and valleys.

Article index

  • one

    Characteristics of the veiled chameleon

    • 1.1

      Size

    • 1.2

      Coloration

    • 1.3

      Sexual dimorphism

    • 1.4

      Adaptations

  • two

    Behaviour

  • 3

    Habitat and distribution

  • 4

    Feeding

  • 5

    Reproduction

  • 6

    Pet care

    • 6.1

      accommodation

    • 6.2

      Atmosphere

    • 6.3

      Diet

Characteristics of the veiled chameleon

Size

The male of this species measures 43 to 61 centimeters, from head to tail. As for the female, it is smaller. His body can measure approximately 35 centimeters.

Coloration

The hatchling is pastel green in color and, as it grows, develops stripes. The adult female is green with orange, white, or yellow spots. As for the male, it has a much brighter coloration than the female.

This one usually has yellow, turquoise, green, orange and black color patterns. Likewise, it could present blue or yellow spots or stripes.

Tail of the veiled chameleon. Source: Jarek Tuszyński / CC-BY-SA-3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The color of the veiled chameleon can be affected by several factors, such as the reproductive stage or its state of health. Under experimental conditions, the young man raised in isolation is duller and darker than the one that has grown up in his natural environment. Likewise, this reptile tends to darken its colors when it is stressed.

Sexual dimorphism

The Chamaeleo calyptratus has a very noticeable sexual differentiation. Thus, the male is larger than the female, and has spurs on the back of each hind leg. In addition, its gular spines are longer.

As for the crests, the female has them smaller than the male. However, it has a heavier body.

Adaptations

The veiled chameleon has various physical adaptations that help it survive in the environment where it lives. These include:

Hooded head

This reptile has a kind of hood on its head. This structure is formed by a bony ridge in the posterior region of the skull. One of its main functions is to contribute to the collection of water.

Because the veiled chameleon lives mainly in dry climates, water is a rare element in its environment. In addition, since their diet is based on insects, the water intake of these animals is very low.

This is why the hood becomes relevant, as it helps to cover the need to be hydrated. In this sense, when the dew accumulates on the hood, the drops of water slide towards the mouth of the reptile.

Veiled chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus). Source: Σ64, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another function is associated with playback. Males have larger and more pointed hoods than females. During mating, males fight each other for access to females.

Having a large cap intimidates the adversary, getting him to withdraw from the fight. On the other hand, females tend to choose pairs that have large veils.

Eyes

Among the most interesting physical characteristics of this reptile are its eyes. These can move independently and rotate almost 360 degrees. Thus, the veiled chameleon can have monocular vision, where they see the images captured by one eye, or binocular vision, where the images are taken by both eyes.

In this way, the Chamaeleo calyptratus can see even the small insects that are around it. When the animal locates a prey, both eyes focus in the same direction. In this way, you have a very clear stereoscopic view of the animal, as well as a perception of depth.

Color change in the skin

This species has the ability to vary the color of the skin. This benefits the animal in a number of ways. In the first place, it allows the reptile to blend in with the environment, thus going unnoticed by any threat.

Also, the veiled chameleon uses its skin to control its internal temperature. Like the rest of the reptiles, this animal is cold-blooded. Because of this, they depend on the sun to warm their body. In order to speed up this process, the animal can darken its skin, thus helping to absorb heat more quickly.

Young specimen of veiled chameleon. Source: William Warby from London, England, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

However, one of the most important functions of these variations in skin tones is communication. During the breeding season, the male varies his color to attract the female. Thus, it can become brighter, with shades from red and orange, to blue and yellow.

Also, with the shades of purple, orange, red and black, the male tries to intimidate other males. In this way you are informing him that he is ready for the fight or urging him to walk away, before the fight occurs.

Zygodactyl legs

The toes of the veiled chameleon form two groups, one of two digits and the other of three. In the front legs, the grouping formed by three toes is located towards the inside and the one with two fingers towards the outside. This distribution is reversed on the hind legs.

In this way, the reptile can have a secure grip, even when it is on thin branches. In addition, the sharp claws that it has on each finger help the reptile to climb various surfaces with agility.

In this video you can see a specimen of this species:

Behaviour

Veiled chameleons are shy and solitary animals. However, males are very territorial and, to defend their space, one male can be very aggressive towards another.

Conversely, females can stay close to each other, except during the reproductive season. Males and females are separated in the territory, meeting only when they go to reproduce.

When they feel threatened or scared they move slowly, emit a kind of hiss and change color.

Habitat and distribution

Distribution of the veiled chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus). Source: rbrausse, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The Chamaeleo calyptratus is distributed to the southwest of the Arabian peninsula, extending from the province of Asir, in Saudi Arabia, to Aden, in Yemen. Because this reptile is marketed as a pet, there is currently a wild population in Florida and Hawaii.

The regions where he lives are between 1,200 and 2,000 meters above sea level. Thus, although it does not have a preference for a specific habitat, it is preferably located in forests, high plateaus, valleys and mountains. In addition, it can be found in tree alleys, along paths, and in shrubs in home gardens.

In this way, it is able to live both at the top of the trees, and close to the ground, in bushes and cultivated plants. This species is one of the few that can tolerate wide ranges of temperate ecosystems, although it prefers regions with temperatures ranging between 23 and 35 ° C.

Feeding

The veiled chameleon is an insectivorous animal. The main base of its diet is cricket, although it also eats silkworms, flies, grasshoppers, mealworms, and honey worms. However, it is one of the few chameleons that eats the leaves of plants, as a way to obtain water during the summer.

To capture its prey, it projects its tongue. This is almost twice the length of your body and is made up of bone, muscles and cartilage.

The researchers suggest that the reptile’s tongue behaves like a catapult, in which energy is progressively stored before being released rapidly.

Veiled chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus). Source: O, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When the prey is touched by the tongue, it is attached to its end. This is because there is a thick substance in that area. Experts point out that, in addition to the mucus on the tongue, its shape and the speed with which this organ is moved create a complex suction mechanism.

Thanks to this joint action, the captured animal is dragged into the oral cavity, to be crushed by the powerful jaws and later digested.

Reproduction

The veiled chameleon reaches sexual maturity when it is between four and five months old. During courtship, the male performs behaviors that attract the female. These include rubbing the chin and rolling the head.

As for the female, it changes from its light green color to a darker one. In this way, it indicates to the male that it is receptive to reproduce.

Egg laying occurs between 20 and 30 days after the couple has copulated. The female can lay up to 85 eggs, for which she opens a hole and, once laid, buries them.

In relation to the embryos, they experience a diapause. During this period they are inactive inside the egg. The development of these continues when the temperature of the substrate rises.

In this video you can see the mating of two specimens:

Pet care

The Chamaeleo calyptratus is an animal very sensitive to stress. Due to their high territoriality, experts recommend keeping them individually, in separate cages. The presence of another chameleon and even if you see its reflection in the glass, can cause extreme behavior, causing the animal to stop eating.

accommodation

Screen cages, which feature a vinyl liner and metal mesh, are a better environment than glass aquariums. This is because they offer better ventilation, good protection and an excellent physical barrier.

The ideal dimensions for this cage are: 61 centimeters long, 46 centimeters high and 46 centimeters wide.

Veiled chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus)

Inside it there should be branches large enough for the veiled chameleon to climb comfortably and sunbathe. Also, some plants could be included.

Atmosphere

It is important that the cage is exposed to direct sunlight, taking care that the internal temperature does not exceed the limit of 35 ° C. As for the relative humidity, it should be kept around 50 to 60%. To maintain humidity levels, the cage and plants can be sprayed with water, until they drip.

Diet

The veiled chameleon is fundamentally an insectivorous animal. Their diet is based on crickets, wax moths, earthworms, cockroaches, flies, cicadas, and grasshoppers. It also eats caterpillars, silkworms, beetles, and newborn mice.

To complement the diet, it is advisable to include a small amount of fresh leaves. Another important aspect is water. To avoid dehydration it is necessary that the cage has a container with fresh water, which must be changed daily.

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