The New Year has brought the long awaited return of our Madagascar panther chameleons to the rainforest. While their exhibits were being structurally improved, the chameleons were housed in our Rainforest Holding room.
Panther chameleons are native to the island of Madagascar, and have been introduced to the nearby islands of Mauritius and Reunion.
You may notice that our two panther chameleons look quite different from one another. While structurally, they look the same, they differ greatly in their coloration. This is because these two individuals are from different locations or “locales” in Madagascar. Our red panther chameleon originates from animals that were collected in Sambava while our blue panther chameleon hails from animals that were collected in Ambilobe. Although the two chameleons we have on display were bred in captivity, their coloration carries with it the unique regional variation of their wild forbearers.
A popular misconception is that chameleons change color to match their surroundings. While chameleons can in fact, change color, they are limited by a natural range of color unique to each species and, in the case of the panther chameleon, unique to the locales within the species. Color change occurs based on temperature, lighting, time of day, and the individual’s mood. It is also a way for the chameleons to communicate with one another.
Over time, chameleons evolved to be very visual creatures. They live solitary lives, but when they do encounter another member of the same species, some of the most dramatic color changes can be observed. This type of communication can convey territorial aggression, whether a female is carrying eggs, or whether a female is receptive to breed.