What do Chameleons do to survive in a Hurricane?

bberry820

Member
Hurricane Ian is less than 12 hours from hitting Florida's west coast as a category 4 storm. One of the possible impact zones is Lee county which is home to a good chunk of Florida's invasive chameleon population. This has me curious as to what the chameleons will do in order to survive. Madagascar and Yemen both get hit by Cyclones, the Indian Ocean version of a hurricane, from time to time. These animals must have a survival strategy in order to endure these conditions in the wild. Many people also hypothesize that hurricane Charley back in 2004 is partially responsible for the healthy population of veiled chameleons in Collier and Lee county. It could be fact or it could be urban legend but I have heard stories of the 04 storm destroying a chameleon breeding facility allowing some chameleons to escape. I have also heard that Charley could have dispersed chameleons owned by ranchers for the purpose of insect control on their farmland. There are three survival methods I can think of: tolerate, replenish, and replace. It could be one of those strategies, a combination of these strategies, or a strategy I haven't even considered.

Tolerate - It is pretty likely that in their 60 million years of being on this planet that chameleons have adapted and developed instincts that help them weather violent storms. Animals can sense natural disasters coming like they have some sort of 6th sense. They know disasters are coming just about as soon if not faster than our technology can. We can detect a hurricane before its even formed but have no idea where it will land until it arrives, in the last 12 hours the trajectory has changed by about 100 miles. It is very possible that when chameleons sense a hurricane coming they can prepare just like we would do. Chameleons don't need to stock up on gas, water, and toilet paper, but they do need to find a nice spot that will keep them safe. I would assume the safest spot would the thickest and lowest tree branch they can grip. With their super grip they only need to worry about their branch flying away as well as debris smacking them. I would assume only the largest and strongest individuals would have the best chance to survive and the old, weak, and young would have some casualties.

Repopulate -In cases where the storm just decimates a good chunk of land it is entirely possible to lose an entire area of chameleons. The bulk of the storm is only so wide and can only take out a small region of the overall area of chameleons. It is entirely possible that the chameleons in regions that aren't hit so hard by the storm will migrate into the area that was wiped out. I am not sure how long it would take for the entire area to be home to chameleons because I do not know the radius of the "kill zone" and I don't know how long it takes for chameleons to migrate.

Replenish -The final hypothesis I have thought of is if an area of chameleons dies out the eggs in the ground laid over the past 9 months will hatch and replenish the lost population. The chameleon reproductive cycle indicates to me that their populations are designed to survive mass die offs. Females lay eggs every 3-4 months and the eggs take 6-9 months to hatch. This means that when a female chameleon is laying eggs she has at least one other clutch still incubating in the ground, which further would indicate there are always 2-3 generations of chameleons in the ground at any given time in various stages of development. A whole living population can die off due to forrest fire, drought, lack of food, natural disaster, etc. and more chameleons will continue to hatch from the ground. The eggs also have a three month range of gestation time whereas a human's gestation time is pretty constantly 40 weeks (advancements in medicine has allowed us to birth babies much sooner in certain situations). This range of gestation tells us that the chameleon babies can prolong their hatching until certain climate conditions are met to sustain their needs. My only concern with this theory is that I don't know how the intense rain and flooding affect the eggs. It is possible that the water kills the eggs or the water might be a trigger to tell the more developed eggs that it is time to hatch soon.

What do you think will happen to the chameleons impacted by hurricane Ian?


side note: I didn't proof read this at all so if something doesn't make sense or an idea sounds incomplete please point it out and I will clarify what I mean
 

Morpheo's Mom

Avid Member
I feel a little bit of all three of your hypothesis are going to play into the chameleons of Florida's survival.

The ones that are able to tolerate the storm are going to be in the outer edges. Areas are not quite at severe, in which wherever they did choose to wait it out they won't have to endure as much.

Same with replenish. Those very same chameleons will over time move into the areas that were affected by the storm.

Lastly, the eggs. Some will very well survive if they happen to be in right place.

Of course as you said, the strongest will survive the least tolerant conditions. A lot will most certainly perish. Here is a link I found that talks about animals escaping a facility from the storms, and that was only a category 2 or 3 storm. So who knows, if something like that happens again we might see even more invasive species in Florida in the coming months.
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&sou...8QFnoECAsQAQ&usg=AOvVaw1DMUhlrFeFsyAz19_VRV3G
 

snitz427

Chameleon Enthusiast
I can’t speak to hurricane force winds… But I’ve brought my Chameleons in on some very windy evenings to find they are tucked in for bed during the storm, curled up tight in a corner branch with a great grip. I still brought them in, but they seemed unphased.

Hurricane force winds are significant so I am not sure grip is enough… But possibly moving inward on the trees will help cut the wind a bit and you need to hold on for the swaying.
 

MzLaurie11

Avid Member
All great points. Recently they found a chunk of petrified tree sap with three baby chameleons in it. They tested to be 99 million year old! Also i read about one species of chameleon that lives for only three months. They are found in only one area of madagascar. They hatch in the mud flats, grow for a month or two then mate and lay thier eggs in the mud flats then die. The mud flats harden up till that season comes around again about nine months later during the rain season..the eggs hatch again! I was amazed! So with hurricanes, they can feel the barometric pressure drop to know its coming. I would think that they would climb up to the top of palm trees and hunker down in the center of the top. Palm trees fair the best in hurricanes. I bet you the wild chams instinctivly know this. If they hold onto the base of a palmfrawn, the have a good chance of not going airborn and surviving.
 

JacksJill

Website Manager
Staff member
There is a video clip out there somewhere of a chameleon clinging firmly to a whipping tree branch. Unfortunately it is being whipped around by the naturalist filming it so I won't link it here. The point is they have very strong grip to ride out high winds.

There is also some evidence of them detecting barometric pressure drops at least to the point that rather hard to breed species began to reproduce in response to a serious storm with a major drop for one member here. So there is some instinctive response. Hopefully that also tells them to head for cover and hold on tight.
 

snitz427

Chameleon Enthusiast
There is a video clip out there somewhere of a chameleon clinging firmly to a whipping tree branch. Unfortunately it is being whipped around by the naturalist filming it so I won't link it here. The point is they have very strong grip to ride out high winds.

There is also some evidence of them detecting barometric pressure drops at least to the point that rather hard to breed species began to reproduce in response to a serious storm with a major drop for one member here. So there is some instinctive response. Hopefully that also tells them to head for cover and hold on tight.

I have had some experience with this over the summer, as I have had several chameleons outside through pretty high winds. I'd say gusts up to around 40... with anything higher or sustained I would have brought them in... but some summer storms can be really tough! Those storms broke off tree limbs all around the neighborhood, but the chameleons were tucked in and unphased. At one point, I debated bringing them in for their comfort (no concern about damage to their enclosures/trees).... when I went outside I found them all tucked in early, sound asleep, with an incredible grip on their branches. They seemed to instinctively get down closer to the main stem / trunk of the tree and more sturdy branches (rather than hanging on the tips of the branches like they do during the day). They held on tight and really didn't seem to sway much at all in the wind. They were sound asleep.

Your comment on barometric pressure is interesting, as they did seem to know, in advance, to batten down the hatches. I left them outside and they were completely unphased after the storm.
 
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