Chameleon changes color, how?

Small, picturesque and very skillful, the chameleon is living proof that in the animal kingdom, it does not matter the size to be spectacular. Originally from Africa, it is among the most fascinating beings on earth, due to its large and delirious eyes that can move independently of each other, as well as its extraordinary ability to change color and camouflage between the different environments of nature. But how is the latter possible? If you want to know why the chameleon changes color , be sure to read this article from Animal Expert.

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The Chameleon’s Habits

Before you know why chameleons change the color of your body, you need to know a little more about them. The true chameleon inhabits much of the African continent, although it is also possible to find it in Europe and certain regions of Asia. Its scientific name Chamaeleonidae includes almost two hundred different species of reptiles.

The chameleon is a very lonely animal that usually lives on top of the trees without any group or companions. It descends to firm ground only when it is time to find a partner and reproduce. On top of the trees, it feeds mainly on insects such as crickets, cockroaches and flies, and also worms. This reptile picks its prey using a rather peculiar method, which consists in throwing its long sticky tongue over the victims where they remain trapped. The tongue of the chameleon can reach up to three times the length of its body and it carries out this movement so quickly, only a tenth of a second, making it impossible to escape it.

Is it necessary for the chameleon to change color?

It is easy to guess that this surprising ability enables the chameleon to adapt to almost anyexisting environment , protecting it from predators while hiding from the eyes of its prey. As we said, chameleons are native to Africa, although they are also found in some areas of Europe and Asia. When there are many species, they are distributed by different ecosystems, be they savannahs, mountains, jungles, steppes or deserts, among others. In this panorama, the chameleons can adapt and reach any tone found in the environment, protecting themselves and contributing to their survival.

In addition, among their abilities is also a great ability to jump from one tree to another, due to the strength of their legs and tail. As if that were not enough, they can change the skin, just like the snakes.

Chromothorax – the explanation of the color change

Knowing all this, you’re certainly asking yourself, “But how do chameleons change color?” The answer is simple, they have special cells , called chromatophores , which contain certain pigments with which the chameleon can change its color depending on the situation in which it is. These cells are located on the outside of the skin and are distributed in three layers:

  • Upper layer : contains red and yellow pigments, especially visible when the chameleon is at risk.
  • Intermediate layer : mainly houses the white and blue pigments.
  • Bottom layer : contains dark pigments such as black and brown, which are usually manifested depending on the changes in temperature in the environment.

Camouflaged chameleon – one of the reasons to change color

Now that you know how the chameleon changes color it’s time to find out why it does it. Obviously, one of the main reasons is that this device serves as a method of escape against predators. However, there are also other reasons, such as:

Temperature changes

The chameleons change color depending on the ambient temperature. For example, to make better use of the sun’s rays, they use dark tones because they absorb heat better. Similarly, if the environment is cold, they change the skin to lighter colors, to cool the body and protect itself from adverse climates.


Protection and camouflage are the main causes of their color change, hiding from their predators, which are usually birds or other reptiles. The ability to camouflage with the colors offered by nature seems to have no limits, no matter if they are plants, rocks or land, these animals adapt their body to everything that allows them to confuse the other creatures that represent a risk to their life.

Read our article “Animals camouflaging in nature” and discover other species with this ability.

States of Mind

These little reptiles also change color depending on mood. In the next section we will delve into this topic and also explain the different shades that chameleons may adopt.

Do chameleons change color according to their mood?

Not only do humans possess humor but also animals, and this is another reason why chameleons change color. Some research has shown that depending on the mood they are at a given moment, they adopt a certain pattern of colors.

For example, if chameleons are courting a female or in a dangerous situation, they show a set of colors in which bright colors prevail, and when they are relaxed and calm, they have slightly softer and more natural colors.

The colors of the chameleon according to your mood

Humor is extremely important for chameleons when they change color, especially because they communicate with their peers in this way. However, according to their mood, they alternate their colors in the following way:

  • Stress : In situations of stress or nervousness, they are painted in dark shades , such as black and a varied range of browns.
  • Aggressiveness : During a fight or when they feel threatened by others of the same species, chameleons show a variety of bright colors , where red and yellow predominate. With this, they tell the opponent they are willing to fight.
  • Passivity : If a chameleon is not ready for the fight, the colors shown are opaque , indicating to his opponent that he is not looking for trouble.
  • Mating : When the female is ready for mating, displays bright colors , especially using orange . The males , on the other hand, try to get your attention by using a rainbow hue , showing their best clothes: red, green, purple, yellow or blue are displayed at the same time. It is then the moment when the chameleon shows with greater strength its ability to change color.
  • Pregnancy : When the female is fertilized, she changes her body to dark colors , such as deep blue, with few spots of bright color. In this way, it indicates to other chameleons that it is in this gestational state.
  • Happiness : Whether they are victorious in a fight or, because they feel comfortable, when chameleons are calm and happy, bright green tones are common. This is also the tone of the dominant males.
  • Sadness : a chameleon defeated in a fight, sick or sad will be opaque, gray and light brown .

How many colors can the chameleon have?

As we mentioned, there are about two hundred species of chameleons distributed throughout the world. Now, do they change color the same way? The answer is no. Not all chameleons are able to adopt all varieties of color, this depends greatly on the species and environment in which they develop. As if that were not enough, some species of this genus do not even change their color!

Some species, such as Parson’s chameleon, can only vary between different shades of gray and silvery blue, while others, such as the jackson chameleon or three-horned chameleon, boast a range of about 10 to 15 shades , formed with scales of yellow, blue, green, red, black and white.

A third type only oscillates in hues of ocher, black and brown. As you can see, these are very complex animals !

If you want to read the similar articles as Chameleon changes color, how? , we recommend you to enter our Curiosities section of the animal world .

Emily Harris

Hi Guys, Girls, and Cats:-p I am Emily Harris, and you can see in above pic. She loves me I swear. I saved her from a dumpster a few weeks back.

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