Do Chameleons Really Use Camouflage?

Courtesy of ThoughtCo

Courtesy of ThoughtCo

Kaitlyn Berg

Everyone knows that chameleons change color to blend in with their surroundings right? Actually, that’s a myth. Scientists discovered chameleons change colors because of their mood, showing off to another Chameleon, light, temperature, or the humidity of the environment. When a chameleon is green they feel relaxed, that’s when they blend into their home in the forest canopy. They even mimic leaves by dancing around a little. However, when they feel threatened, annoyed, or just want to show a little swagger they change all different colors. The faster chameleons change colors the more excited they are.

Courtesy of Chameleon Basics

How do they change colors though? Scientists have been getting that wrong too. Scientists thought chameleons change colors by spreading out pigments in their cells, but the truth is way more complex. It turns out right below the surface of their skin is a layer of cells called Iridophores. These cells are made of tiny salt crystals that are only 130 nanometers across. The crystals are arranged in a three dimensional lattice. When light hits the lattice it shatters into different wavelengths some are absorbed and some bounce back. The result in our eyes appears one color or multiple colors. Chameleons can also stretch or contract their skin, which moves the distance between crystals. Each of the points of light are in a ray of crystals, so when the distance changes the crystals reflect at different wavelengths of light. The result is a great shift in color.

Courtesy of The Conversation

Some fun facts about Chameleons, is that their tongue consists of muscles and bones, and can be twice as long as their body. Another fun fact is that Chameleons don’t just eat insects they also can eat foliage and fruits, but some Chameleons eat small birds and even smaller Chameleons. Chameleons have 5 toes on each foot and have prehensile tails, male Chameleons even have spikes and horns. Chameleons only live 2-10 years, but it actually takes 4-12 months for their eggs to hatch. When Chameleons are born they come out as their base color which is green.

7th grade science teacher, Mrs. Zide said, “I didn’t know chameleons use camouflage. I actually think it’s even more interesting that they don’t match their surroundings. The color the Chameleon changes into means so much more, temperature, trying to get the attention of another Chameleon, etc.”

7th grader Doreen Yoon expressed her feelings on the topic, “ No, I didn’t know that Chameleons don’t use camouflage. Honestly, I feel lied to, broken, unhappy, I’ll never be the same!”

In conclusion, Chameleons are fascinating reptiles, and scientists are finding more and more about them every day!