Monday, December 27, 2010

Different Chameleons

In the Greek language "chameleon" means "dwarf lion" & they look the picture of "ferocity" when angered or disturbed: puffing themselves up to near bursting point, opening their mouths wide and venting sinister hisses. However chameleons are completely harmless and are known as arboreal lizards = living in or connected to trees.

The Flap-Neck chameleon is 1 of 2 local species in South Africa - lizards which typically lay eggs. Like the one in the photo, they often are "pedestrians" crossing the road, especially in the Kruger National Park area, other than "providing proof" why in Afrikaans, this particular chameleon is called Trapsuutjie. Also typically this chameleon can direct its eyes indepently of each other.

A Flap-Neck chameon's colouration varies from pale yellow through green shades to brown, changing its body colour to regulate body temperature other than in response to its environment. This is a relatively large chameleon (= largest species in SA) and its tail "equals" the length of its body. This chameleon tends to inhabit bush country or open savannah woodland.

The Namaqualand chameleon is confined to the drier parts of our country. This chameleon uses the skill of camouflage also as threat or mating display, whilst in the process, the "shadow" side of its body remains paler. It also uses this evolutionary "habit" to control its body temperature, so that some of its skin changes to white to deflect the sun (= during harsh hot days) or turns dark to absorb the sun (= to keep warm during cold nights in a desert).

In contrast to the above 2 species, this Drakensberg dwarf chameleon is 1 of 15 recognised dwarf chameleons in SA, of which 5 are endemic to the Cape Fold mountains. All of the dwarf species give birth to young - usually 2 clutches per year, each containing 5-25 young - in contrast to most reptiles laying eggs.

The Cape dwarf chameleon is predominantly green, has a long tail & is restricted to the region around Cape Town. As with most chameleons, its tongue is twice the length of its body & can be shot out of its mouth to catch insects a distance away.

Like the photo of the Namaqualand chameleon, which our son-in-law photographed, a friend of ours in Port Elizabeth sent me this photo of a Southern dwarf chameleon. It only occurs in the Eastern Cape province & finally we have another "colouring" (in contrast to mainly green, as the chameleons in my photos predominantly "display").

Green again! But this isn't a chameleon, right. This Green basilisk is an exotic species from the tropical forests of mainly Central America & is often favoured as a pet. It's a member of the iguana family of reptiles, has a long, whip-like tail & males have distinctive crests on their heads, backs & tails - to impress females! Because - to avoid danger - it tends to dart (= looks like walking) across water, this reptile has the moniker: Jesus Christ lizard.

Similarly this also isn't a chameleon but an indigenous Spiny-tailed (or Black) agama, which I regularly encounter on Table Mountain. To my mind & similar to the exotic basilisk (above), it "displays" a dragon-like pose - but not in a threatening way either (= dragon &/ lion look-alikes).

[More on agamas/different lizards will follow, even if I've posted various pictures of agamas, etc before].

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