55 Music Concourse Dr.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco CA
Regular Hours:


9:30 am – 5:00 pm


11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Members' Hours:


8:30 – 9:30 am


10:00 – 11:00 am

Please note: The Academy will be closing at 3:00 pm on 10/24 (final entry at 2:00 pm). We apologize for any inconvenience.

Parking and traffic in Golden Gate Park will be congested the weekend of Oct. 3–5. Save $3 on Academy admission when you take public transportation.

Rainforests of the World 

February 9, 2010

The Return of the Chameleons

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.

Photo by: Rachael Tom

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.


Photo by: Rachael Tom


Photo by: Rachael Tom

 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.


Photo by: Rachael Tom

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.

Filed under: Herpetiles — rockclimber @ 3:50 pm


  1. I love chameleons! One of my favourite animals.

    Comment by Joey — February 22, 2010 @ 6:03 pm

  2. I’m doing my 4th grade animal report on the chameleon. They are cool.

    Comment by Jake Martin — March 2, 2010 @ 7:28 pm

  3. Awesome! Good luck with your animal report, and let us know if you have any questions!

    Comment by rtom — March 4, 2010 @ 7:46 pm

  4. Are those both male panthers?

    Comment by Cheryl — January 3, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

  5. Hello Cheryl,

    Yes, both of our panther chameleons are males.

    Comment by rainforest — March 23, 2011 @ 11:45 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

The Rainforest Team


Academy biologists share the inside scoop on the Academy's 'Rainforest of the World' exhibit.

Academy Blogroll