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Colorful Chameleons

When we think of chameleons we picture a lizard that can change the color of its skin to blend in with the environment. Actually, the color change is the result the temperature, moisture and light in their surroundings, as well as camouflage. Chameleons also change color as a means of communication and if they frightened or angry.

Chameleons have four layers of skin with each layer containing different pigments (color cells) called chromatophores. By expanding and shrinking these color cells the chameleon changes color. The blending of the different layers creates the colors and patterns that we see.

Another impressive feature of chameleons is their long and sticky tongue used for catching of insects. In some species the tongue is longer than the body. A chameleon's tongue is so fast that it takes only 0.07 seconds for its tongue to reach its prey.

There are approximately 160 species of chameleon. Almost half of the world’s chameleon species live on the island of Madagascar. They vary in size from less than an inch to 30 inches long.

Did You Know?

  • Chameleons can change color in as little as 20 seconds
  • In Madagascar running over a chameleon is considered bad luck. 
  • A chameleon’s eyes can see in two different directions at once.
  • Scientists have created a color changing T-shirt using the same process that a chameleon uses to change color.

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