Endangered Chameleon at St Lucia

The little Setaro’s Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodian setaroi) is only found in the iSimangaliso St Lucia Wetland Park, and is coded Red on the Endangered reptile list.

Some interesting Chameleon Facts:

  • The largest known chameleon is the Oustalet’s Chameleon, they can grow up to 60 cm in length…the smallest is the Pygmy Leaf Chameleon which measures in at 2.54 cm. The Setaro adult is normally between 10 – 12 cm.
  •  The name “Chameleon” means “Earth Lion,” and is derived from the Greek words “Chamai”, meaning of the Earth or on the ground, and “Leon” meaning Lion.
  • How they change colour: They have 4 layers of skin:
  • The outer or protective layer, the Epidermis.
  • The Chromatophore layer that contains red and yellow pigments.
  • Image source - Lesley Sawyer
    Image source – Lesley Sawyer

    The Melanophore layer that contains the dark pigment melanin which creates brown and black and reflects blue.

  • The Nether layer which only reflects white. (This is how you find them at night.)
  • Nerve impulses and hormone changes cause the colour cells in these layers to expand and contract, and the blending of these layers creates the colours and patterns that we see. Colours also change under the influence of moods such as fear or anger, also with the amount of light and humidity. These changing skin colours play an important part in communication between males.
  • The Chameleon’s tongue is almost as long as it’s head and body minus the tail. The end of the tongue is a ball of muscle, and it shoots it out at an incredible speed to snag it’s prey, as the tongue hits the prey, it rapidly forms a small suction cup. Once the pray sticks to this sticky tip, the Chameleon draws it back into it’s mouth where it crushes it with it’s strong jaws before swallowing.
  • The Setaro Chameleon is ovoviviparous, meaning that she will carry her eggs,(she can carry up to 8 of them!) incubating them inside of her body for about 3 months. Once they are ready, she gives birth to live young. As soon as they are born, they begin to hunt, instinctively knowing how to survive!!

Nature is so amazing!! Article submitted by Lesley Sawyer, The Whale Shop St Lucia

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