14 February 2015

Mediterranean Chameleon

This Mediterranean Chameleon Chamaeleo chamaeleon was found in Dana Reserve in Jordan in October 2014 but is the same chameleon that occurs in Saudi Arabia, mainly down the western side of the country where it can be found from sea level to 1850 metres above sea level in the mountains. The Mediterranean Chameleon, also known as the Common Chameleon, is a diurnal species that usually varies in colour from green to dull brown, tan or grey. It has a remarkable ability to change colour which is done for camouflage, to signal to other chameleons and to regulate its temperature. Whatever its background colour, the Mediterranean chameleon generally has two light stripes along each side of its body, with the stripes often being broken into a series of dashes or spots. They are an arboreal species that have strong, grasping feet with four toes, two on each side for grasping branches and a prehensile tail, used to maintain balance and stability, making it well adapted to living in bushes and trees. It uses its long, sticky tongue to capture passing prey, that when extended, can be twice the length of the body. They have very sharp eyesight and each eyeball is able to move independently of the other and a light crest of scales along its throat, and a crest of small, serrated scales along its back and can measure up to 20 -40 cm long. They are active during the day and its diet consists mainly of arthropods including grasshoppers, flies, bees, wasps, and ants. Like other chameleons, the Mediterranean Chameleon is slow-moving, often with a slight swaying motion to avoid detection by predators, and is a ‘sit-and-wait’ predator that captures prey with its long, sticky tongue when prey comes within reach. Their range is the broadest of all chameleon species, extending from northern Africa, Arabia to southwest Asia and southern Europe. In North Africa and the Middle East it occurs in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria Iraq and Iran. They are found in a variety of habitats including open pine woodland, shrubland, plantations, gardens and orchards and spends the majority of its time in trees or bushes, preferring dense cover for camouflage. However, this habit changes during the mating season when males move to the ground to find a mate and females descend to a lower level of vegetation.