Chameleons are famous for their ability to change colour. But they have plenty of other tricks up their multi-coloured sleeves.

Veiled chameleon, Chamaeleo calyptratus

Veiled chameleon Chamaeleo calyptratus

All sorts and sizes

There are lots of different types of chameleon. Some are as tiny as 3cm long, while others grow up to about 70cm. Most of them live in tropical places but you do get some in Europe, too.

Feeling blue or another colour?

Everyone knows that chameleons change colour to match their surroundings, right? Wrong. Some chameleons can change colour, but they do it for other reasons:

  • If a chameleon is feeling cold, it becomes darker, because dark colours absorb more heat.
  • If a panther chameleon is angry, it turns reddish or yellowish. This warns other chameleons it's looking for a fight!
  • When a male wants to attract a female, it will change to its finest, flashiest colours.
  • When a chameleon is ill, it will stay pale because it doesn't have the energy to change colour.
Less famous skills

There are lots of other things that make chameleons weird and wonderful creatures:

  • Chameleons can whip their long tongues out faster than our eyes can follow, moving 26 times the length of their own body in a second.
  • Some can talk to each other using vibrations that travel through solid things like branches.
  • They can look at two different things at once and see all around, thanks to their swivelling eyes.
  • They have specially-shaped feet, toes and claws to help them grip onto the bark of trees as they climb.