Panther chameleon

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Panther chameleon
Panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) male Montagne d’Ambre.jpg
Male, Montagne d'Ambre National Park Joffreville locale
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Iguania
Family: Chamaeleonidae
Genus: Furcifer
F. pardalis
Binomial name
Furcifer pardalis
(Cuvier, 1829)
Furcifer pardalis distribution.png
  • Chamaeleo pardalis Cuvier 1829[2]
  • Chamaeleo ater Lesson 1832
  • Cyneosaura pardalis Gray 1865
  • Chamaeleo guentheri Boulenger 1888
  • Chamaeleon longicauda Günther 1891
  • Chamaeleon axillaris Werner 1899
  • Chamaeleon krempfi Chabanaud 1923
  • Chamaeleo niger Duméril & Bibron 1836
  • Chamaeleon pardalis Werner 1911
  • Chamaeleon guentheri Werner 1911

The panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) is a species of chameleon found in the eastern and northern parts of Madagascar[3] in a tropical forest biome. Additionally, it has been introduced to Réunion and Mauritius.


The panther chameleon was first described by French naturalist Georges Cuvier in 1829.[3] Its generic name (Furcifer) is derived from the Latin root furci meaning "forked" and refers to the shape of the animal's feet.[4] The specific name pardalis refers to the animals' markings, as it is Latin for "leopard" or "spotted like a panther".[5] The English word chameleon (also chamaeleon) derives from Latin chamaeleō, a borrowing of the Ancient Greek χαμαιλέων (khamailéōn), a compound of χαμαί (khamaí) "on the ground" and λέων (léōn) "lion". The Greek word is a calque translating the Akkadian nēš qaqqari, "ground lion".[6] This lends to the common English name of "panther chameleon".


Male panther chameleons can grow up to 20 centimetres (7.9 in) in length, panther chameleons have a typical length of around 17 centimetres (6.7 in). Females are smaller, at about half the size. In a form of sexual dimorphism, males are more vibrantly colored than the females. Coloration 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, but there are slight differences in patterns and colors among the different color phases.[7]


Like all chameleons, panther chameleons exhibit a specialized arrangement of toes. On each foot, the five toes are fused into a group of two and a group of three, giving the foot a tongs-like appearance. These specialized feet allow the panther chameleon a tight grip on narrow branches. Each toe is equipped with a sharp claw to gain traction on surfaces such as bark when climbing. The claws make it easy to see how many toes are fused into each part of the foot. On the forelimbs, there are two toes on the outer (distal) side of each foot and three on the inside (medial). On the hind legs, the arrangement is reversed: two toes are fused medially and three distally. [8]

A Panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) moves its eyes

Their eyes are the most distinctive among the reptiles and function like a gun turret. The upper and lower eyelids are joined, with only a pinhole large enough for the 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. They have keen eyesight for reptiles, letting them see small insects from a long (5–10-m) distance. Ultraviolet light is part of the visible spectrum for chameleons.

Panther chameleons have very long tongues (sometimes longer than 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. The tongue hits the prey in about 0.0030 sec. The tongue of the 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. At the tip of this elastic tongue, a muscular, club-like structure covered in thick mucus forms a suction cup.[9] Once the tip sticks to a prey item, it is drawn quickly back into the mouth, where the panther chameleon's strong jaws crush it and it is consumed.

Behavior and ecology[edit]

It is a common misconception that chameleons of any kind can change color to match any color of their environments. All chameleons have a natural color range with which they are born, and is dictated by their species. It is affected by temperature, mood, and light. If, for example, the color purple is not within the range of colors to which their particular species can change, then they will never turn purple.[citation needed] Like most species of chameleons, the panther chameleon is very territorial. It spends the majority of its life in isolation, apart from mating sessions. When two males come into contact, they will change color and inflate their bodies, attempting to assert their dominance. Often these battles end at this stage, with the loser retreating, turning drab and dark colors. Occasionally, the displays result in physical combat if neither contender backs down.[3]


Gravid female, Réunion Island

Panther chameleons reach sexual maturity at a minimum age of seven months.[3]

When gravid, or carrying eggs, females turn dark brown or black with orange striping to signify to males they have no intention of mating. The exact coloration and pattern of gravid females varies depending on the color phase of the chameleon. This provides a way to distinguish between locales.[3]

Females usually only live two to three years after laying eggs (between five and eight clutches) because of the stress put on their bodies. Females can lay between 10 and 40 eggs per clutch, depending on the food and nutrient consumption during the period of development. Eggs typically hatch in 240 days.[10]



  1. ^ Tolley, K. (2014). "Rieppeleon brachyurus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2014: e.T172548A1345030. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2014-3.RLTS.T172548A1345030.en. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  2. ^ "Synonyms of Panther Chameleon (Furcifer pardalis)". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e Andreone, F.; Guarino, F. M.; Randrianirina, J. E. (2005). "Life history traits, age profile, and conservation of the panther chameleon, Furcifer pardalis (Cuvier 1829), at Nosy Be, NW Madagascar" (PDF). Tropical Zoology. 18 (2): 209–225. doi:10.1080/03946975.2005.10531221. ISSN 0394-6975. S2CID 73679094.
  4. ^ Le Berre, François; Richard D. Bartlett (2009). The Chameleon Handbook. Barron's Educational Series. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-7641-4142-3.
  5. ^ Padilla, Michael J.; Ioannis Miaoulis (2002). From bacteria to plants. Prentice Hall. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-13-054059-1.
  6. ^ " entry for "chameleon"". Retrieved 2013-12-17.
  7. ^ 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. ISBN 978-1-57524-194-4.
  8. ^ Higham, Timothy E.; Anderson, Christopher V. (2014). "Chapter 4, Function and Adaptation of Chameleons". In Tolley, Krystal A.; Herrel, Anthony (eds.). The Biology of Chameleons. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 111–138. ISBN 9780520957381.
  9. ^ Piper, Ross (2007). Extraordinary Animals: An Encyclopedia of Curious and Unusual Animals. Greenwood Press. p. 74. ISBN 9780313339226.
  10. ^ Badger, David; John Netherton (2006). Lizards: A Natural History of Some Uncommon Creatures—Extraordinary Chameleons, Iguanas, Geckos, and More. Voyageur Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-7603-2579-7.

Further reading[edit]

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