Skip to main content

Panther chameleon

Furcifer pardalis

Description: The Panther is one of the most colorful of all chameleons, particularly the male chameleon. They sport an array of colors that rival a rainbow. Males have a broken white stripe that goes down the length of the body. The less flamboyant females are usually tan, gray or pale green. Males have a larger and more prominent “helmet” or casque that is used for protection. The very long tongue can be extended longer than their body length and ends with a sticky tip used for catching prey. The tongue moves like a catapult, much the same way a frog catches its food. The dome-shaped eyes are large. Their legs, which project to the side and to the back, are specially jointed so that all four, V-shaped feet can easily grasp a branch located below the body. The front feet each have two toes on the outside and three toes on the inside. On the hind feet there are three toes on the outside and two toes on the inside. The position of the toes assist in balancing. Their prehensile tails are curled when not in use.

Size: Males are much larger than females. Mature males can reach total body lengths 14-21 inches (36-53 cm); females 9-13 inches (23-33 cm).

Behavior: Panther chameleons are diurnal, solitary and territorial. The home ranges of males are usually larger than those of females. Males defend their territory by chasing and/or displaying. During courtship or when defending territory, head bobbing, drastic color changes and inflation of the body may occur. Body temperature can also be controlled by color changes – for example, dark colors absorb more heat.

Diet: These opportunistic hunters wait motionless for insects, small birds and other reptiles to get within reach of their long tongue.

Senses: The eyes extend out of their head and are covered with scaly skin and have only a small opening for seeing. Both eyes turn independently in order to look in different directions at the same time. Vision is more important than their sense of smell; visual cues are used as their main defense.

Communication: Use gestures such as head bobbing, inflation of body and color changes.

Reproduction: Panther chameleons are usually isolated except for mating. After a gestation period of 30-45 days the female will descend to the ground and dig a burrow into which 14-34 eggs are laid. The female will not be involved in the hatching of her offspring and they will be independent at birth. Depending on the temperature, incubation ranges between 160-362 days.

Habitat/range: Panther chameleons are native to the northern and coastal areas of Madagascar where they live in trees and bushes, mostly in the coastal lowlands where it is warm and humid.

Status: The Panther chameleon is listed as Appendix II of CITES ; Least Concern (LC) on IUCN.