Chameleons as a general species are extremely fascinating creatures. However, panther chameleons are one of the most complex species of chameleon in the world today. They are also one of the most aesthetically pleasing creatures.
Whether you already own a panther chameleon or you are planning to own one, here are 39 fascinating facts about the Panther chameleon.
1. Origin of the Panther Chameleon
The panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) is a species of chameleon which originates from and is commonly found in the eastern and northern parts of Madagascar in Africa. Since it thrives in a tropical rainforest biome, it has also been introduced to Réunion and Mauritius and is known to thrive well in both places.
2. Discovered By a French Naturalist
The panther chameleon was first described by French naturalist Georges Cuvier in 1829.
The panther chameleon belongs to the class Reptilia (reptiles like snakes and lizards), the Order Squamata (reptiles with scales) and the Suborder: Iguania (iguanas).
4. Conservation Status
Its conservation status is listed as being of least concern, due to its increasing population both in its natural habitat and in captivity. However, conservationists have noted that the animal can benefit even more from management measures that ensure that tracts of its forest biomes alongside roads and rivers are preserved.
5. 2,000 Chameleons are Taken Out of Madagascar Every Year
About 2,000 panther chameleons are taken out of Madagascar in a year. This quota was set by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1999, in order to ensure that the animal does not get depleted in its natural habitat. Before then at least 15,000 panther chameleons were being taken out of Madagascar every year which was a significant cause for concern before the quota was imposed.
6. Good as a Pet
Panther chameleons also do well in captivity. It is second to only the veiled chameleon as the species of chameleon most bred in captivity.
Image Credit: Taiwan Chameleon
7. Why is it called the Panther Chameleon?
The panther chameleon’s generic name (Furcifer) is derived from the Latin root furci meaning “forked” which refers to the shape of the animal’s feet. The animal feet comprises of 5 toes which are fused together to two groups. One group has two toes, while the other has three toes.
This gives the animal’s feet an appearance of tongs. The group of two is on the outside, while the group of three is on the inside. The panther chameleon’s fused opposite digits have sharp claws that enable the animal to grip trees like pincers which makes the animal an excellent tree climber.
The panther chameleon is called that because its specific name pardalis is the Latin word for “leopard” or “spotted like a panther”.
The chameleon is given that name because of peculiar markings on its body which looks like the stripes of a leopard. Since black leopards are called panthers and the chameleon lives in Africa and has black markings, it naturally became the Panther Chameleon.
8. The Panther Chameleon is an Arboreal Animal
The panther chameleon like other species of chameleons is an arboreal animal which means that it likes climbing on top of trees and shrubs both in the wild and in captivity.
9. Prehensile Tail
The animal also has a long prehensile tail which it uses as a fifth leg which gives it balance when it is climbing trees and shrubs.
10. The Panther Chameleon Casque
Like most species of chameleons, the panther chameleon’s head also extends at the back into a bony prominence known as a casque. The casque is made of muscle and fat and supported by bone. The casque begins to appear as the animal matures and it is often distinctive by the time the animal is eight months old.
11. Drinking System
Unlike veiled chameleons, panther chameleons do not use their casques to catch water. They still cannot drink from standing water; rather they only drink water when it is dripping off the leaves. See more: Can Chameleons Drink Tap Water? (Drinking System)
12. Ability to Change Color Rapidly
Panther chameleons are regarded as one of the fastest in terms of ability to change color to suit their surroundings. Some males are reputed to be able to complete a color change in as fast as one to two minutes to court a female or to face a competitor.
13. Male Chameleons Have a Hemipenal Bulge
Apart from the coloration, the major way of differentiating between male and female panther chameleons is a hemipenal bulge right at the base of the male’s tail. Female panther chameleons do not have this bulge.
Image Credit: WikiHow
14. Life Span
As seen in most species of chameleons, male panther chameleons live longer than females. Male chameleons live for an average of 5 years, however, some specimens have been found to live for up to 7 years. Female panther chameleons only live for about 2-3 years.
Similar to other species of chameleons, male panther chameleons are also bigger than female panther chameleons. Male members of the species can grow up to 20 inches (51 cm) in length, with a typical length of around 17 inches (43 cm). Females are much smaller and only grow to between 10 and 12 inches.
With their size, the panther chameleon is one of the biggest species of chameleons. Also, Like in most species of chameleons, male panther chameleons are more vibrantly colored than the females.
Image Credit: WikiHow
16. Most complex member of the chameleon species
Unlike most other chameleons species where individuals have more or less the same base color, panther chameleon coloration is very complex and may vary depending on the location where the individual chameleon is.
17. Panther Chameleon Locales
The different color patterns of panther chameleons are commonly referred to as ‘locales’, which are named after the geographical location (in Madagascar) in which they are found. Panther chameleons from the areas of Nosy Be, Ankify, and Ambanja are usually a vibrant blue, while those from Ambilobe 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.
18. Male Panther Chameleons Have Color Dimorphism
The color dimorphism is only found in male panther chameleons. Females generally remain tan and brown with hints of pink, peach, or bright orange, no matter which locale they happen to be in. However, like males of the species, there are also slight differences in patterns and colors among the different color phases and locales.
19. Distinctive Eyes
As opposed to the features of other chameleons, the Panther chameleon’s eyes function as a gun turret. The upper and lower eyelids are joined, with only a pinhole large enough for the animal’s pupil to see through.
They can rotate and focus separately to observe two different objects simultaneously. Their eyes move independently from each other. It in effect gives them a full 360-degree arc of vision around their bodies.
When prey is located, both eyes can be focused in the same direction, giving sharp stereoscopic vision and depth perception. The panther chameleon has extremely keen eyesight for a reptile. Its eyes are so sharp that it can see small insects from as far as 5–10-m away. Also, unlike many other reptiles, Panther chameleons can see in the Ultraviolet light spectrum.
20. Panther Chameleons Have Long Tongues
Panther chameleons have very long tongues which can sometimes be like one and a half times as long as their own body length, which they are capable of rapidly extending out of the mouth. The tongue extends at around 26 body lengths per second and it hits the prey in about 0.0030 sec.
The tongue of the panther chameleon is a complex arrangement of bone, muscle, and sinew. At the base of the tongue, a bone is shot forward, giving the tongue the initial momentum it needs to reach the prey quickly.
21. How Does the Panther Chameleon Catch Prey?
The panther chameleon has at the tip of its elastic tongue; a muscular, club-like structure covered in thick mucus forms a suction cup. Once the tip sticks to a prey item, it is drawn quickly back into the mouth, where the panther chameleon’s strong jaws crush and eat it.
22. Rate of Color Change
The panther chameleon’s rate of color change and choice of color to change to is affected by temperature, mood, and light.
23. The Panther Chameleon’s Diet
Depending upon their range, the panther chameleons will primarily eat diverse type of worms that are available in the wild, as also insects like crickets, grasshoppers, roaches, etc.
24. Panther Chameleon Predators
Chameleons are at the bottom of the food chain. Snakes, birds such as shrikes, and horn-bills, and sometimes, even monkeys also prey upon the panther chameleons.
25. Panther Chameleons Have No Natural Defenses
Similar to most other species of chameleons, panther chameleons do not have any natural defenses. They do not have any venom or toxins to disable prey and repel predators. They do not have a strong enough jaw to inflict a fatal bite on prey or predators and they are not fast enough to escape predators.
The only method of defense they have is their keen eyesight and their ability to change their color to match the plants and shrubs in their habitats so that predators cannot detect them.
Like most species of chameleons, the panther chameleon is very territorial. Even though there are bad tempered individuals, the animal is regarded as one of the most placid of the chameleon species.
The panther chameleon spends the majority of its life in isolation. The only time it allows any chameleon of any species or gender to come close to it is when it is with a female during mating sessions. See more: Can You Put Two Chameleons Together?
Female panther chameleons are not as aggressive and territorial as males. It is not uncommon to see two females within the same territory. A female panther chameleon rarely gets aggressive unless it is pregnant.
28. Colors in Panther Chameleons
When two males of the species come into contact, it is common to see both animals change color and inflate their bodies, attempting to assert their dominance. The battles end at this stage, with the loser retreating, and turning into drab and dark colors to show its admission of defeat and submission.
Occasionally, the displays result in physical combat if neither contender backs down. Color changes in panther chameleons have diverse meanings. Yellow means anger and aggression, Cyan/Blue is a sign that the male chameleon is trying to impress a female, green signifies comfortability and relaxation while lighter colors mean it is interested in breeding.
Don’t do this to your Cham.
Researchers have found that sometimes male Panther chameleons often impersonate female chameleons. If a panther chameleon is entering a stronger male’s territory he changes his color to look like a female chameleon so that he doesn’t get attacked.
Breeding and Reproduction
30. When Do Panther Chameleons Reach Maturity?
Panther chameleons reach sexual maturity at a minimum age of seven months.
31. When A Female Panther Chameleon is Gravid?
When gravid or carrying eggs, the female panther chameleons turn dark brown or black with orange striping to signify to males that they have no intention of mating. At this point, the female chameleon will turn uncharacteristically aggressive and attack any male that comes close to her.
The coloration and pattern of a pregnant female Panther chameleon depend on the color phase of the chameleon and the locale it is in. This has been used to distinguish between locales. See more: 7 Things You Need to Know About Baby Chameleons.
Image Credit: Taiwan Chameleon
32. Chameleon Breeding Periods
Panther chameleons breed between the spring and summer months (between March and October). However, in more climatically stable regions along the west coast of Madagascar, panther chameleons breed all year round.
33. Fertilization, Pregnancy Hatching
Female panther chameleons usually lay between five and eight clutches of eggs in their lifetime. This is part of the reason why they only live for two to three years. Laying eggs puts tremendous stress on their bodies. Female panther chameleon can lay between 10 and 40 eggs per clutch, depending on the food and nutrient consumption during the period of pregnancy.
A panther chameleon egg typically has a gestation period of 9 months. This means that the panther Chameleon has one of the longest gestation periods among the chameleon species.
The baby Panther chameleon is called a hatchling and it does not come with the ability to change colors. It develops that ability when it gets to maturity at between 5 to 7 months. See more: 7 Things You Need to Know About Baby Chameleons.
Other Interesting Facts
Opening the mouth wide is a part of the panther chameleon’s normal activities. Chameleon owners have reported that these chameleons often yawn like humans, and this happens especially in the morning.
35. Panther Chameleon Dominant Displays
Even though a male would often be aggressive to and fight with other males, they often run and hide or change color to match their surroundings when attacked by humans or predators.
However, some bad-tempered individuals in captivity have been known to bite their owners. When threatened, or angry, the panther chameleon might emit a hissing sound. Zoologists and chameleon owners have also reported that individuals emit a sound that sounds like human snoring during sleep. See more: Don’t Worry about Chameleons’ Bite!
Panther Chameleons in Popular Culture
36. The Panther Chameleon In Movies
Pascal the chameleon portrayed in the Disney Movie “Tangled” looks most like a Panther Chameleon.
37. Misconceptions About Panther Chameleons
Contrary to the popular belief, panther chameleons (or indeed chameleons of any species) cannot change color to match every environment they are in.
Panther chameleons, like other species of chameleons, have a natural color range with which they are born, and that color range is limited to and dependent by their species.
A panther chameleon’s color is determined by the locale it belongs to. For example, if the color purple is not among the range of colors that the chameleons in that locale can change to, an individual in that locale will never be able to turn purple. Thus, a panther chameleon, for example, cannot alter its color to match a chessboard despite what Youtube videos will have you believe.
Most panther chameleon keepers keep these beautiful and exotic animals for the purpose of being able to watch them and be pleased by their aesthetics.
Thanks for reading.
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