Types Of Chameleon

By Snaketracks / August 31, 2020

There are many different Types Of Chameleons in the world (202 species) and they all vary greatly in size, shape, and color.

Most people find chameleons (or chameleons) astonishing and mysterious. Astonishing because of their capability of changing color – a mechanism that is not just meant to camouflage and helping at evading predators, but also signals a chameleon’s physiological condition and intentions to other chameleons.

Mysterious,  because of their look including crests or horns on their brow and snout that resembles dinosaurs.

However, there is still more to be surprised about chameleons: their eyes, tongue, feet, and tail.

  • Eyes: They have the most distinctive eyes of any reptile. They have a stereoscopic vision and their eyes  are independently mobile, even if when  aiming at a prey item, they focus forward in coordination
  • Tongue: They have a very extensive, highly modified, rapidly extrudable tongues
  • Feet: They have zygodactylous feet that somehow resembles the functions of human’s hands (opposable digits on the front and back feet)
  • Tail: Most chameleon species (the larger ones in particular) have a prehensile tail. For this reason, the chameleon’s tail cannot be broken off and regrow like those of many other lizards

All chameleons are found in the Old World, but most live in Madagascar and Africa. The rest are found in the Middle East, a few on islands in the Indian Ocean, and one, the Indian chameleon, in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

Another, the common chameleon, is native to Spain, Portugal, the islands in the Mediterranean Sea, and the Near East.

Quick Reference Section

Types Of Chameleon

There are 202 species of chameleons described as of June 2015.

Chameleons vary greatly in size and body structure, with maximum total lengths varying from 15 mm (0.59 in) in male  Brookesia Micra (one of the world’s smallest reptiles) to 68.5 cm (27.0 in) in the male Furcifer oustaleti.

Over a third of the world’s chameleon species are threatened with extinction. Of these, nine species have been listed as Critically Endangered, 37 as Endangered, and 20 as Vulnerable. That is a total of 66 threatened chameleons.

Chameleons are so much more threatened than reptiles in general. This is because so many chameleon species are “range-restricted,” which means that “these species are endemic to small geographic areas, often a particular habitat on a single mountain.

Video On Chameleons


Most Common Types Of Chameleon Kept As Pets

Chameleons make fascinating pets, even if they are not meant for the beginner hobbyist.

The Types of Chameleon most commonly kept as pets are:

  1. Veiled Chameleon – Chamaeleo calyptratus
  2. Jackson’s Chameleon – Trioceros jacksonii
  3. Panther Chameleon – Furcifer pardalis
  4. Bearded Pygmy Chameleon – Rieppeleon brevicaudatus
  5. Spectral Pygmy Chameleon – Rhampholeon spectrum
  6. Carpet Chameleon – Furcifer lateralis

1. Veiled Chameleon – Chamaeleo calyptratus

veiled chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus)
Veiled Chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus)
Quick Facts
  • Other Common Name: Yemen Chameleon
  • Color: Green and light colors
  • Length (male): 35-60 cm
  • Length (female): 25-33 cm
  • Other Distinctive Features:
  • Lifespan: 5 years in the wild, 6-8 years in captivity
  • Reproduction: Oviparous
  • Egg-laying: Female Veiled Chameleons can produce three clutches of eggs a year. Each clutch may have 20 to 70 eggs and take 6 to 9 months to hatch
  • Diet: Veiled Chameleons are omnivores, eating insects, leaves, and flowers
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Veiled Chameleon is a large chameleon species found in the mountain regions of Yemen and Saudi Arabia where there is very little water.

Both male and females have a decorative growth on their head that looks like a party hat and is called a casque. The casque acts as a water collector. At night, droplets of moisture roll down the casque and into the chameleon’s open mouth! Males also have a spur on each hind leg

Behavior & Temperament

Veiled Chameleons are territorial and aggressive to other chameleons. Thus they should always be housed individually. While they are usually quite docile towards people, regular handling tends to be stressful for them. They are pets better suited to being watched rather than handled.

Check out the Veiled Chameleon care sheet for more.

2. Jackson’s Chameleon – Trioceros jacksonii

Jackson's Chameleon (Trioceros jacksonii)
Jackson’s Chameleon (Trioceros jacksonii)
Quick Facts
  • Other Common Names: Jackson’s Horned Chameleon, Horned Chameleon, or Kikuyu Three-Horned Chameleon
  • Color: Bright green and light colors
  • Length (male): 23-33 cm
  • Length (female): 25-33 cm
  • Other Distinctive Features: The generic name, Trioceros, is derived from the Greek τρί- (tri-) meaning “three” and κέρας (kéras) meaning “horns”. This is about the three horns found on the heads of males somewhat reminiscent of the ceratopsid dinosaur genus Triceratops
  • Lifespan: 5-10 years
  • Reproduction: Jackson’s Chameleon gives birth to offspring soon before they are ready to hatch from their egg sac. Eight to thirty live young are born after a five to six-month gestation. The subspecies T. j. merumontanus gives birth to five to ten live young
  • Diet: Insectivore
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Jackson’s Chameleon is a species of chameleon native to East Africa but also introduced to Hawaii, Florida, and California.

They weren’t discovered by a scientist named Jackson. Rather their name comes from an ornithologist and prior governor of Kenya, Frederick Jack.

Behavior & Temperament

Jackson’s Chameleons are territorial and should be housed individually. Handling is stressful to them. So, as with other chameleons, they are pets better suited to being watched than handled.

Check out the Jackson’s Chameleon care sheet for more.

3. Panther Chameleon – Furcifer pardalis

panther chameleon (furcifer pardalis)
panther chameleon (furcifer pardalis)

The Panther Chameleon is a species of chameleon found in the eastern and northern parts of Madagascar. Additionally, it has been introduced to Réunion and Mauritius.

Quick Facts

  • Length (male): 38-53 cm
  • Length (female): 23-33 cm
  • Other Distinctive Features: Its generic name Furcifer is derived from the Latin root furci meaning “forked” and refers to the shape of the lizard’s feet. The specific name pardalis refers to the animals’ markings, as it is Latin for “leopard” or “spotted like a panther”
  • Lifespan: About 5 years in captivity (2–3 for birthing females)
  • Lifestyle: Diurnal
  • Diet: Insectivore
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Vary by geographical locationColoration varies with location, and the different color patterns of Panther Chameleons are commonly referred to as ‘locales’, which are named after the geographical location in which they are found.

Panther Chameleons from the areas of Nosy Be, Ankify, and Ambanja are typically a vibrant blue. And those from Ambilobe, Antsiranana, and Sambava are red, green, or orange. The areas of Maroantsetra and Tamatave yield primarily red specimens.

Numerous other color phases and patterns occur between and within regions. Females generally remain tan and brown with hints of pink, peach, or bright orange, no matter where they are found. However, there are slight differences in patterns and colors among the different color phases.

Source: Ferguson, Gary; James B. Murphy; Jean-Baptiste Ramanamanjato; Achille P. Raselimanana (2004). The Panther chameleon: color variation, natural history, conservation, and captive management. Krieger Publishing Company. pp. 54, 62–63. ISBN978-1-57524-194-4.

Check out the Panther Chameleon care sheet for more.

Behavior & Temperament

Panther Chameleons are territorial and should be housed individually. Handling tends to be stressful. Thus, as with other chameleons, they are pets that are better suited to being watched rather than handled a lot


After a gestation period of 30-45 days the female will descend to the ground and dig a burrow into which it lays 14-34 eggs. The female will not be involved in the hatching of her offspring and they will be independent at birth. Depending on the temperature, incubation ranges between 160-362 days

4. Bearded Pygmy Chameleon – Rieppeleon brevicaudatus

Bearded Pygmy Chameleon (Rieppeleon brevicaudatus)
Bearded Pygmy Chameleon (Rieppeleon brevicaudatus)

The Bearded Pygmy Chameleon is a chameleon originating from the eastern Usambara and Uluguru  Mountains in northeastern Tanzania and Kenya.

Quick Facts

  • Other Common Name: Bearded Leaf Chameleon,
  • Color: Brown, beige, green
  • Length (male): 5-8 cm
  • Length (female): 5-8 cm
  • Other Distinctive Features: It is easily distinguished from others in the Rieppeleon genus by the presence of a “beard” below the mouth, consisting of a few raised scales
  • Named after Latin “brevis, -e” = short and “cauda, -ae” = tail.
  • Lifespan: About 3–5 years
  • Behavior & Temperament: Docile
  • Reproduction: Oviparous
  • Diet: Insectivore
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern
  • Care Video On Pygmy Chameleon

The Bearded Pygmy Chameleon is capable of compressing its body laterally and producing a stripe down its side, mimicking a dead leaf. It often assumes this form when sleeping in the open.

5. Spectral Pygmy Chameleon – Rhampholeon spectrum

Spectral Pygmy Chameleon (Rhampholeon spectrum)
Spectral Pygmy Chameleon (Rhampholeon spectrum)

The Spectral Pygmy Chameleon is a species native to mainland Africa (Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of the Congo, and Nigeria)

Quick Facts

  • Other Common Names: Western Pygmy Chameleon or Cameroon Stump Tail Chameleon
  • Color: The overall base coloration is quite uniform in color and made up of varying shades of grey, brown, and black. This species commonly displays dark lateral stripes down its flanks
  • Length (male): 8-10 cm
  • Length (female): 5-10 cm
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years
  • Reproduction: Their reproductive habits are poorly known
  • Diet: Insectivore. Favorites are crickets, curly-wing flies, mealworms, and waxworms
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern
Behavior & Temperament

They show a docile temperament. Although this species shows little intraspecific aggression they do not fare well in social groups and are best kept singular or in sexed pairs.

6. Carpet Chameleon – Furcifer lateralis

Carpet Chameleon (Furcifer lateralis) Basking on branch
Carpet Chameleon (Furcifer lateralis)

This species is endemic to Madagascar.

Quick Facts

  • Another Common Name: White-lined Chameleon and Jewel Chameleon
  • Color: The males are largely green and females have a wider range of colors, including bands of white, yellow, and orange
  • Length: 17-25 cm
  • Lifespan: The Carpet Chameleon has a lifespan in the wild of one to two years. Even in the best circumstances, these chameleons rarely live longer than three years
  • Diet: Insectivore
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

A female Carpet Chameleon will be ready to lay her eggs 14 to 35 days after breeding. Females usually produce 15 to 20 eggs per clutch with a high to perfect hatch rate every six to eight weeks from the time of sexual maturity until they die. Females are notorious for scattering their eggs instead of burying them.

Check out the Carpet Chameleon care sheet for more.


Chameleons make great pets. But they are pets meant for the experienced hobbyist because they are delicate creatures that get easily stressed.  Research must be done before acquiring a chameleon.

As it comes out from the above quick guides, chameleons have short lifespans, measured in years not in decades as other pet reptiles. However, even if concrete data on wild lizards and verifiable reports concerning captive specimens are rare, it’s clear that the larger species of chameleon live longer than most of the smaller species do.

Even if the above-described species have all the Least Concern status, over a third of the world’s chameleon species are threatened with extinction.

One of the explanations of this phenomenon is that nearly half of chameleon species are found in only one country, Madagascar, an insanely-biodiverse island nation that has faced large-scale forest loss due to slash-and-burn farming, illegal logging, and agricultural fires. This has put many of the island’s unique species, including lemurs, on the endangered list.

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