Chameleons have laterally compressed bodies. This enables them to warm up quickly by presenting a larger surface area to the sun. It also helps some chameleon species blend in among the similarly shaped leaves in their environment.
The word Rhampholeon is taken from the Latinized Greek “rhamphos leon” meaning crawling lion.
Pygmy chameleons have bicuspid claws where each claw has two points like a crescent moon.
Furcifer oustaleti (Oustalet’s Chameleon) is the longest chameleon species reaching lengths of 27 inches (68cm).
Chameleons change color by rearranging a lattice of nanocrystals in one of their top layers of skin cells called iridophores. Chameleons can then stretch this layer, broadening the nanocrystalline lattice, thereby causing it to reflect a different wavelength of light.
Chameleons do not have external ears or a tympanic membrane, but they do have internal ears as well as degenerated middle ears. They do not hear well but they can detect low frequency sounds.
The oldest known chameleon fossil is from the extinct species Chamaeleo caroliquarti. It was found in Europe and is 26 million years old.
The horns on a chameleon are made up of ringlike segments of inner bone covered by a hard keratin-like skin.
The word Calumma comes from the Latin word for covering. This genus consists of chameleons from Madagascar with occipital lobes.
True chameleons include the following genera: Archaius, Bradypodion, Brookesia, Calumma, Chamaeleo, Furcifer, Kinyongia, Nadzikambia, Palleon, Rhampholeon, Rieppeleon and Trioceros.