Parson's chameleon

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Parson's chameleon
Calumma Parsonii Ste Marie Madagascar.jpg
Male C. p. parsonii,
"orange eye" variant
Parson's chameleon (Calumma parsonii cristifer) female Andasibe 2.jpg
Female C. p. cristifer, Andasibe
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Iguania
Family: Chamaeleonidae
Genus: Calumma
C. parsonii
Binomial name
Calumma parsonii
(Cuvier, 1824)
Calumma parsonii distribution.png

The Parson's chameleon (Calumma parsonii) is a large species of chameleon, a lizard in the family Chamaeleonidae. The species is endemic to isolated pockets of humid primary forest in eastern and northern Madagascar. It is listed on CITES Appendix II, meaning that trade in this species is regulated. While most chameleon species from Madagascar can not be legally exported, a limited number of Parson's chameleon can be legally exported each year from its native country.


The specific name, parsonii, is in honor of British physician James Parsons.[3]



Among the largest chameleons in the world (usually considered the largest by weight, but shorter than the Malagasy giant chameleon which holds the title for the largest by length), C. parsonii males have ridges running from above the eyes to the nose, forming two warty horns. There are two recognized subspecies: The widespread Calumma p. parsonii reaches up to 68 cm (27 in) in total length (including tail), about the size of a cat, and has no dorsal crest. Calumma p. cristifer, from near Andasibe, reaches 47 cm (18 12 in), and has a small dorsal crest.[4][5] Several colour variants are known within the range typically included in the nominate subspecies, but it is unclear if they are best considered morphs or different subspecies (at present, most consider them morphs). This includes "orange eye" aka "white-lipped" (generally considered typical of the nominate subspecies), where the male is relatively small and mainly green or turquoise but with yellow or orange eyelids; "yellow lip" where the male is somewhat larger and mainly green or turquoise, but with a yellow edge to the mouth; "yellow giant" where the male is very large and overall yellowish (strongly marked with dusky when stressed); and "green giant" where the male is overall green. Males of C. p. cristifer are overall green or turquoise.[4] Females of both subspecies are smaller than the males and overall greenish, yellowish or brownish (often with an orange tinge).


The Parson's chameleon is omnivorous, eating most plants, insects, and possibly small birds. It is primarily listed as an insectivore because its diet mainly consists of mantises, large beetles, moths, and roaches including the Madagascar hissing cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa). It has been speculated to eat small mammals and birds and is known to eat other lizard species.[6] It utilizes its prehensile tail as an anchor by fastening itself to trees or branches while it searches for and devour prey.

The Parson's chameleon captures its prey by shooting out its sticky projectile tongue. Its tongue acts as a suction cup; food is seized and swallowed almost whole. A chameleon's lack of movement as well as environment-adapted skin change enable the predators to catch prey off-guard.

Parson's chameleons congregate at certain times of the year. For example, when coffee plants are blooming, they can be found on the coffee plants waiting for insects, such as the turnip moth.

Life span[edit]

The Parson's chameleon (C. parsonii ) is one of the longest-lived chameleon species with a highest minimum age of 9 years for males and 8 years for females. C. parsonii can reach an exceptional long lifespan in captivity. Longevity in the wild was estimated at 10 to 12 years and in captivity, animals of 14 years were recorded, which is unique among chameleons. The great longevity and the sexual maturity reached at least for some individuals after two or three years, make this species particularly susceptible to threats such as over-collection.[7]


In captivity, females of Parson's chameleon lay up to 50 eggs per clutch; the eggs can take up to two years to hatch. The female's reproductive cycle allows for egg laying only once every two years.[citation needed] The hatchlings are independent once they dig themselves out of their underground nest. Once the nest is dug, eggs are laid, and buried, the female's parental obligations are concluded. Parents do not contribute any care towards the young.


  1. ^ Jenkins RKB; Andreone F, Andriamazava A, Anjeriniaina M, Brady L, Glaw F, Griffiths RA, Rabibisoa N, Rakotomalala D, Randrianantoandro JC, Randrianiriana J, Randrianizahana H, Ratsoavina F, Robsomanitrandrasana E (2011). "Calumma parsonii". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2011: e.T172896A6937628. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2011-2.RLTS.T172896A6937628.en.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ "Calumma parsonii ". The Reptile Database.
  3. ^ Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Calumma parsonii, p. 201).
  4. ^ a b Glaw F; Vences M (1994). A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Madagascar (Second ed.). Cologne, Germany: M. Vences & F. Glaw Verlags GbR/Serpents Tale. 480 pp. ISBN 978-3-929449-01-3.
  5. ^ Parson's chameleon. Archived 2009-04-01 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 23-01-2009
  6. ^ Kreger, Michael D. (1997). "Caring for chameleons". Zoo Biology. 16 (6): 551–553. doi:10.1002/(sici)1098-2361(1997)16:6<551::aid-zoo8>;2-9. ISSN 1098-2361.
  7. ^ Tessa, Giulia; Glaw, Frank; Andreone, Franco (March 2017). "Longevity in Calumma parsonii, the World's largest chameleon". Experimental Gerontology. 89: 41–44. doi:10.1016/j.exger.2017.01.007. ISSN 0531-5565. PMID 28077326. S2CID 11972184.

Further reading[edit]

  • Boulenger GA (1887). Catalogue of the Lizards in the British Museum (Natural History). Second Edition. Volume III. ... Chamæleontidae ... London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). (Taylor and Francis, printers). xii + 575 pp. + Plates I-XL. (''Chamæleon parsonii, p. 466).
  • Cuvier G (1824). Recherches sur les ossemens fossiles, où l'on rétablit les charactères de plusieurs animaux dont les révolutions du globe ont détruit les espèces, Nouvelle édition, Tome cinquième, IIe Partie [= Volume 5, Part 2]. Paris: Dufour & l'Ocagne. 547 pp. + Plates I-XXXIII. (Chamaeleo parsonii, new species, p. 269 + Plate XVI, figures 30 & 31). (in French).

External links[edit]