Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Chamaeleon, a genus, of lizards of the group Vermilingues, with about 30 species, forming a family clearly marked off from all the other members of the order by external characters, as well as by their anatomical peculiarities. They are almost exclusively Ethiopian, abounding in Africa, while peculiar forms exist in Bourbon, Madagascar, and Fernando Po. The Common Chameleon (C. vulgaris) is found in the south of Spain, the north and south of Africa, ranging eastward to India and Ceylon. The body is flattened, and the skin of the back is serrated so as to form a kind of crest. The head is triangular, the eyes are large, circular, covered, except in the middle, with shagreen-like skin, and capable of independent movement in every direction. There is no external ear, and the mouth is a large slit. The tail is prehensile; and used to aid progression, and is generally twisted round a twig as a support. The skin resembles shagreen, and owing to the disposition of the pigment-cells the animals of this family have the power of changing colour in an extraordinary degree. The digits on each limb are divided into sets of two and three, and with these a bough is clasped somewhat after the fashion of a climbing bird. The chameleons, possess a long fleshy tongue, with a sort of cup at the end; this organ can be protruded at will, and, when an insect comes within reach, is suddenly shot forth and as suddenly drawn back, the prey being secured by a viscid secretion from the tip. All these animals are arboreal in habits and extremely sluggish, lying in wait for, not hunting, their prey. The majority of them are oviparous, but a small South African species, kept in the ward-room of the Challenger, gave birth to three young ones. In one form from Madagascar, often made a distinct genus (Rhampholeon spectrum), the tail is too short to be prehensile, but the digits are modified so as to give additional power of grip. The spelling Chameleon is generally used for any individual of the family.