Slow and Steady
Small lizards normally rely on speed and agility both for defense and attack. The chameleon, however, lies in wait on a branch perfectly motionless except for its protruding scale-covered eyeballs, each of which swivels independently searching for food. All the chameleon’s speed and agility are in its coiled-up tongue, which it links out to capture insects on the sticky tip. In some of the smaller species, chameleons range from 7 inches to 2 feet in length, the extended time is almost as long as the lizard’s body.
The well-known ability to change color to match its surroundings is, in reality, rather less impressive than most people think, and many of the chameleon’s color changes are associated with the time of day and angry displays to rivals rather than its background. Some species are not equipped with red pigment, and others are unable to turn green. The nerve impulses that alter the concentration of pigments in the chameleon skin cells appear to be triggered by changes in light, temperature, and the creature’s hormones.
Nevertheless, a chameleon on a branch is often impossible to spot. Chameleons stalking their prey client up so slowly through the trees that often they seem to be barely moving at all. Their feet are curiously jointed so that three close points one way and to the other, allowing them to encircle the twigs they walk on in a tight grip. And for extra grip and balance, they use their tails as a fifth limb.
A chameleon’s camouflage relies on another factor besides its coloration and lack of movement, it can also alter its shape, making its body appear as thin and flat as a large leaf.
In defense, far from relying on camouflage, chameleons employ tactics that make them extremely conspicuous. They can puff themselves up to a norm in a size and into monstrous shapes, and brighten predators by hissing like snakes and revealing be brightly colored interiors of their bowels. When attacked by a poor example, a tree snake advancing along the branch they are on, they have another handy defense mechanism, they simply let go of the branch and tumbled to a lower one or two the ground.
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