Chameleon Glossary

chameleon glossary



Chameleon Glossary


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0.0.0 - represents male.female.unsexed. For example, 2.1 Furcifer pardalis means 2 male and 1 female panther chameleons.

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- A -

Acrodont - having teeth that are anchored to the mandible (jaw bone) without individual sockets. Unique to certain orders of reptiles, including chameleons.


Advanced Species - these species are best left to keepers with a number of years of experience with intermediate level chams as they have unique husbandry requirements and limited numbers in captivity and possibly in the wild as well. They are very difficult to keep and even more so to breed. Examples: montium, quadricornis, mellers, etc.


Ambient Temperature - the average temperature of the room or area around the chameleon that is unaffected by the basking light.


Arboreal - means "living in trees". The majority of chameleon species fall into this category. These are species that spend most of their time in the middle to higher levels of the forest and rarely go to the ground aside from egg laying. They hunt, drink and mate in the branches of trees. Captive caging for arboreal animals should be taller than wide and include many branches to accommodate this lifestyle.


Aspirate - refers to inhaling liquid or food into the trachea, which can lead to choking, pneumonia, or death.

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- B -

Bask - the full body absorption of heat from the sun, or overhead light source, by reptiles. It helps to regulate body temperature which in turn promotes proper digestion and a healthy metabolism.

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- C -

Captive Bred (CB) - these animals have been bred, born and raised in captivity. They tend to be healthier and more hardy compared to WC/LTC specimens, as they are used to captive conditions and do not have heavy parasite burdens. Captive bred animals have also avoided the heavy stresses related to capture and exportation.


Captive Hatched (CH) - these are offspring from eggs hatched in captivity but were laid by a wild caught female who was gravid when imported. This also applies to babies born in captivity to a wild caught female.


Casque - French for 'helmet', the top of the head of all chameleons is referred to as a casque.


Clutch - one group of eggs or the siblings that hatched from that one group.

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- D -

Deworming - medical treatment of intestinal parasites diagnosed by a fecal exam.


Diapause - simulating a winter season by lowering temperatures for incubating eggs in the middle segment of incubation. Required by some species.


Dripper - a vessel that allows water to drip down into the cage for the chameleon to drink. May be as simple a hole in the bottom of a cup, or commercially produced product like the "Little Dripper".


Dusting - applying a powdered vitamin or mineral supplement to feeder insects immediately before feeding them to a chameleon.


Dysecdysis - a problem with shedding that results in retained skin that should have fallen off and may cause additional problems such as appendage stricture. Usually results from improper temperature and humidity parameters.

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- E -

Ectotherm - an animal that controls body temperature through external means since it cannot generate its own body heat (cold-blooded).


Edema - an accumulation of fluid under the skin, usually in the gular region, suspected to be caused by vitamin imbalance or organ failure.


Eggbound - a serious condition for female egg laying chameleons where for either medical, nutritional or environmental reasons they are unable to lay their eggs. Fatal if not treated.


Expert Species - these are species left only for the most experienced keepers, as they are challenging in all aspects. These chameleons are also highly limited in their captive population due to their care needs and may be endangered or threatened in their natural habitat. They are nearly impossible to breed. Ex: Parsons

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- F -

Farm Raised (FR) - this term can imply different things depending on the source, and resellers may label these animals CB or WC, depending on the personal opinion of the reseller and what is more profitable. These animals typically need the medical care of WCs, but tend to be somewhat better adapted to captive conditions than WC animals.


Fecal - generally refers to diagnostic testing of a fresh fecal (poop) sample for the presence of microscopic eggs of intestinal parasites performed by a vet.

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- G -

Gout - a medical condition often recognized by swollen, painful joints caused by crystallization of uric acid crystals within the joints. This has been associated with excessive dietary protein, chronic dehydration, imbalance of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin D and/or kidney disease. This is a very painful disease and there is not an effective treatment.


Gravid - carrying eggs, or pregnant in the case of live-bearing species.


Gular - the region under the neck just in front of the arms.


Gutloading - providing a healthy balanced diet high in calcium to feeder insects before feeding them to the chameleon so that the nutrients are passed to the chameleon.

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- H -

Hemipenes - paired reproductive organ of male lizards in the order Squamata, like chameleons.


Husbandry - the practice of creating a proper captive environment and maintaining appropriate humidity, temperature, lighting, good nutrition, etc.

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Impaction - intestines are clogged (impacted) with a non-digestible material, such as dirt, bark, rocks, excessive chitin, etc that prevents the digestion and passage of food. May be life-threatening if not treated.


Intermediate Species - these species are for more experienced keepers, having some unique husbandry requirements challenging enough that experience in general care of chameleons is recommended before attempting.

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- L -

Lethargy - decrease in activity or sleeping more than usual, often associated with signs of illness.


Litter - the group of siblings from an viviparous species.


Locale - a natural geographic location that represents specific color variation within the same species, usually the result of geographic isolation. Panther chameleons are commonly labeled by locale. The panther locales are named after geographic areas in Madagascar and each represents a unique color pattern. For example: Nosy Be chameleons are generally very blue and come from an island off Madagascar called Nosy Be.


Long Term Captive (LTC) - these are animals that have been in captivity over 8-12 months but were originally wild caught. They have usually adapted to captivity at this point, and are more stable at this stage than when originally imported since common health issues have been resolved.

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- M -

MBD (metabolic bone disease) - condition of weak bones that break easily and overall metabolic illness due to lack of dietary calcium, imbalanced nutrition and/or lack of UVB rays. Serious problem leaving to permanent damage and death if not addressed quickly.


Montane - chameleon species existing in a more mountainous environment at higher altitudes, lower temperatures and higher relative humidity than traditional tropical species.


Morph - refers to the color pattern variations of chameleons within one species established by selective breeding in captivity for a particular trait. For example: translucent veiled chameleons.


Mouthrot (stomatitis) - an infection of the mouth that could be deep into the underlying bone and can spread to the rest of the body. Requires veterinary attention and antibiotics specific to the bacteria causing the infection.

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- N -

Novice Species - chameleons in general are not beginner animals but those designated "novice" are considered the best "beginner" species in the hobby with large, stable captive populations relative to other species. They are relatively easy to breed as well. Examples: panther and veiled chameleons

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- O -

Oviparous - mode of reproduction where embryos develop inside eggs that have been laid by the mother. Little to no development occurs inside the mother's body (ie., birds and most chameleon species).


Ovoviviparous - this mode of reproduction is not found in chameleons. Please see the definition for Viviparous.

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- P -

Parietal Eye - a photoreceptive (able to sense light) scale on the top of the head that can sense light when the eyes are closed and may play a part in regulating circadian rhythm and hormone production for thermoregulation.


Prolapse - internal organ that has inverted on itself and protruded out of the body through the vent. A medical emergency that should be addressed asap.

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- R -

Receptive - referring to a female being willing to breed with a male, often indicated by a distinct change in coloration depending on the species.


Rostral process - the crest of scales at the tip of the nose.

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- S -

Shed (ecdysis) - the periodic shedding of the outer layer of skin in reptiles to allow for growth. Becomes less frequent as the reptile gets older.


Supplements - concentrated calcium or vitamins, usually in powdered form, to add value to the diet.

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- T -

Tarsal Spur - a bump on the back of the hind feet of Veiled, Graceful, and some species of Flapneck chameleons. Only present on males.


Terrestrial - these are species that in the wild reside on the ground or in the lowest levels of the forest, like shrubbery, with some time spent on the ground. In captivity these species may take advantage of available height, but floorspace should be considered when designing housing. Very few chameleons fall into this category - mostly pygmy species.


Turret - the mobile portion of the eyeball covered in skin around the visible eye opening.

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- U -

Urates - the white portion of the feces that is essentially concentrated urine. Yellow or orange color indicates dehydration.


Upper Respiratory Infection (URI) - an infection of the nasal cavity, trachea, and/or bronchi that manifests as lethargy, wheezing or popping noises while breathing and excess saliva in the mouth.


UVB - invisible ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun with a spectrum between 280-315nm, responsible for vitamin D synthesis in the skin to regulate calcium homeostasis. Critical to chameleon health.

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- V -

Vent - common opening for the digestive, urinary and reproductive tract in birds and reptiles just under the base of the tail.


Vivarium - Latin for "place of life", a cage attempting to recreate the natural environment of the animal's native habitat.


Viviparous - mode of reproduction where embryos develop inside the mother's body until they are ready to be born, at which point the mother gives birth to live young that immediately break free of a membrane (ie., Jackson's chameleons).

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- W -

Wild Caught (WC) - these are animals collected in the wild and exported from their native country - usually young adults. They will probably need to be treated for parasites and other medical conditions like dehydration, are very stressed, and may come in in very bad condition. They are best left for keepers with more experience, even if the species is considered Novice, for these reasons.

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- Z -

Zygodactyl feet - The arrangement of toes on the hands and feet where the 2nd and 4th digits point forward while the 1st and 3rd digits point backward. It is a misnomer that chameleons are zygodactyl. They actually have 5 digits fused into two groups on each foot. Their toe arrangement also alternates between front and hind limbs.

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