Chameleons (Chamaeleonidae) are a family of unique lizards with unusual characteristics: rapidly extendable tongues, feet with two toes pointing forward and two backward, a prehensile tail, and eyes that can move independently of each other. Many species also have the ability to change the colour of their skin.
There are about 213 species of chameleons in the world. They can be found in Africa, the Middle East, southern India, Sri Lanka and the Mediterranean region of Europe. About half of all species occur in Madagascar, a large island in the Indian Ocean.
This island is therefore considered to be a centre of diversity for these lizards and there’s a long-held view that chameleons originated on Madagascar and came to Africa through oceanic dispersal: they floated on huge rafts made of trees. MORE
Header image: Parsons chameleon, Calumma parsonii, in Andasibe – Analamazaotra National Park, Madagascar. Credit: Artush/Shutterstock.