How and Why do Chameleons Change Their Color?

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Chameleons are fascinating creatures, whether in captivity or the wild. Their darting eyes, curled tails, and long tongues make them exciting creatures. Perhaps the most intriguing feature of chameleons is their ability to keep changing their colors. These lizards can change to tons of colors in a single day.

If you are a chameleon fan, you probably know that chameleons change their color now and then. Nonetheless, you might not know why these reptiles change their colors.

Moreover, you could be clueless about how chameleons change color. Let’s see why chameleons change color and how these creatures change their color in this guide.

Why Does a Chameleon Change Color?

There is a broad misconception about chameleons among many people. Most people believe that these creatures change their color for camouflage. Nonetheless, this isn’t the case.  There are several things that prompt chameleons to change color.

First, chameleons change to reflect their moods. They depend on color to communicate their moods to their fellow chameleons and predators. For instance, scientists from various institutions across the globe note that chameleons change to darker colors to express anger.

Color change among chameleons is a sign of the onset of the mating season. Male chameleons change to vibrant colors to attract females in readiness for mating. The red hue in the chameleon’s skin, particularly around the head and sides, will brighten up at this point of stimulation.

Female chameleons will change to warning colors if they don’t have the desire to mate. Females usually change to brown and darker colors when warning their male counterparts that they don’t want to mate.

Chameleons will change color to show aggression. They can adjust to brighter colors, particularly if they want to defend their territories against other intruding chameleons. Chameleons usually show quick and explosive color changes such as bright green and red to display aggression.

Chameleons may change their colors regularly to enable them to cope with changes in light or temperature. During cold temperatures, chameleons usually change to darker colors to allow their bodies to absorb heat.

Fear is another factor that contributes to color change among chameleons. These lizards are susceptible to stress when under fear. They change to darker colorations to communicate fear. They will retain the darker color until the time they feel safe.

Furthermore, chameleons change their colors to help them stand out from other chameleons. While living in groups, each chameleon will change to a unique color to distinguish it from other chameleons. Simply put, all chameleons don’t want to have the same color. They will always strive to have a different color from fellow chameleons.

How do Chameleons Change Their Color?

Yes. It is true that chameleons like changing their colors for several reasons. But how precisely do these lizards manage to change their colors? Scientists argue that chameleons change their color the same way octopuses change their coloring.

Chameleons have crystal-like cells underneath their skin. These cells are known as iridophores, and their primary role is to refract light.  When anything excites, exhilarates, or threatens a chameleon, its iridophores compressor part from each other to produce various color shades. Iridophores work like tiny mirrors. They selective absorb and reflect different colors.

A lot of creatures such as fish and birds have color patterns. However, these animals only display colors within the visible light spectrum. But the chameleons’ iridophores work differently from other animals’ color patterns since they reflect and absorb all color shades of the spectrum.

 What Color is a Chameleon Naturally?

When a chameleon is relaxed, its cells remain close to each other and reflect short wavelengths such as blue. A rush of agitation or excitement suppresses the cells and keeps them farther apart.

A chameleon’s natural color is green. The green color helps the chameleon blend with leaves, ultimately giving it the best defense against possible predators.

Why Doesn’t My Chameleon Change Color?

The color change is normal among chameleons. However, some chameleons, especially pet chameleons, may not change colors, unlike their wild counterparts.  If you notice that your chameleon doesn’t change color regularly, you could wonder why it doesn’t change color as expected.

First off, the lack of color change in your pet chameleon shows that it isn’t agitated or threatened. If there is nothing to agitate or threaten the chameleon, then you shouldn’t expect it to change color.

If your chameleon is living on its own without other chameleons, it will not change color regularly. Ideally, chameleons tend to change color to stand out from other chameleons. Plus, color change in chameleons is a way of communicating with other chameleons.

Thus your chameleon won’t have to change color for communication purposes if it is living alone. Neither will it change to stand out from other chameleons since there are no chameleons in the first place.

Lack of enough iridophores beneath your chameleon’s skin can affect its color-changing capabilities. If the chameleon has a limited number of iridophores, it won’t change to multiple color shades since the cells are away from each other to absorb and reflect light effectively.

Color change in chameleons is a result of response to mood and temperature changes. Hence, your chameleon is unlikely to change color if it is living under stable temperatures. Pet chameleons aren’t vulnerable to mood changes like their wild counterparts.

They are few factors to influence mood among chameleons living in captivity. Hence, your chameleon is less likely to change its color if there isn’t anything to suppress its moods.

What Color do Chameleons Turn When they Die?

Chameleons usually change their colors once they die. Color change after death is because the chameleons’ cells cease to function. Therefore, they don’t have the natural ability to change colors like they used to have when alive.

Moreover, a dead chameleon can’t respond to factors that cause a color change. In most cases, chameleons turn to dark brown or dark black when they die.

Wrap Up

Chameleons will always change color for many reasons. Whether alive or dead, these lizards will always change their color. It is the ability to change the color that makes these creatures fascinating and unique.

Chameleons, Reptiles

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