How much weirdness can you handle in one animal? Chameleons, including the flapneck chameleon, have it all: skin that changes color, swiveling eyes, an extendable tongue and the head of a dinosaur. No wonder these perfectly harmless lizards excite fear and superstition across rural Africa! This particular species, the flapneck chameleon, is one of the most common of the species. The animal lovers at SafariBookings are quite fond of exotic wildlife. Let us share some interesting facts with you.

  • Chameleons’ conical eyes have fused eyelids, leaving just a pinhole through which to see. They revolve independently, allowing the chameleon a 360º arc of vision. The eyes possess stereoscopic depth perception for an accurate strike.
  • Nearly half of the 160+ species of chameleon are native to Madagascar. Most of the rest are found in mainland Africa.
  • A flapneck chameleon can shoot its tongue out as far as the length of its own body.  It does this at a speed of around three hundredths of a second.
  • A chameleon changes color by using layers of specialized cells, called chromatophores, which lie beneath its transparent skin. These comprise a mixture of pigmented, light-reflecting and melanin cells. The reptile can manipulate these cells like the paint on an artist’s palette.
  • The word chameleon is the Latinized form of the Ancient Greek khamaileon.  The word derives from khamai (on the ground) and leon (lion) and translates loosely as ‘ground lion’. This refers to the reptile’s intimidating defensive display, in which it gapes, hisses and lunges.

African Safari Tours

By Mike Unwin
United Kingdom UK

Mike is an award-winning wildlife writer, former editor of Travel Zambia magazine and author of the Bradt Guide to Southern African Wildlife.

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