How Do Chameleons Change Their Color?

Author: Alexandra Cazacu       Date: 2014-12-10

Keywords: changing colors, chameleons


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For most animals, changing colors is not an option. Even more, most animals are identified particularly by their constant color. However, for the African lizards called chameleons, changing colors is the most natural thing in the world. Each chameleon can turn brown, black, blue, green, red, yellow, and even white. How?


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The chameleon 's ability to change colors lies right in its skin, which has several layers. The protective outer layer is colorless and transparent; the skin layer just below it is colorless and transparent, made of cells called chromatophores, containing red and yellow pigments. The cromatophores in the third layer are rich in melanin, the same pigment that creates the different shades of human skin. This layer creates black and brown colors, or reflects blue light. The forth and final layer of skin reflects the light that reaches it. The color of the chameleon changes as the chromatophores in its skin expand and contract.

Light and temperature can affect the size of the chromatophores, and, automatically, the color of the animal. However, most of the control comes from nerve impulses from the brain, which change the hormone levels in the cells.

When a chameleon is cold, the red and yellow cells shrink and the brown/black ones expand, therefore the skin changes into a dark color which absorbs more energy from the light. When it 's interested in mating or defending its territory, the chameleon produces bright colors. The meaning of a color or pattern of color varies with the species of chameleon.

And contrary to popular belief, a chameleon does not change its color in order to match the background and blend in. Actually, many shades taken by a chameleon when it is not agitated or excited provide camouflage in its natural environment. Generally, chameleons, of not disturbed, are green, blue-green or brown.

All in all, the ability of these small creatures to change colors is simply fascinating. Chameleons are unique creatures that seem to have been favored by nature in what regards their aspect and their abilities. So even though you might hate reptiles or any other animals that are not fluffy and cute, you have to admit that the unique abilities of these African lizards sets them apart from all other animals.

And coming to think of it, chameleons are rather privileged. Who would not like being able to camouflage once in a while? For chameleons, there 's nothing more natural in the world than changing their colors.

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member picTallWill50 - Dec 11 2014
That is an amazing chameleon. I don't think I've ever seen so many colors!

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