Panther chameleon characteristics, habitat, feeding, reproduction

Alexander Pearson

The panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) is an endemic reptile from Madagascar that belongs to the Chamaeleonidae family. The most outstanding characteristic of this species is its brilliant coloration. This presents variations according to the region where you live.

However, in general, the bodies can have green, blue-green or black tones. Some species have orange heads and tails or may have red, yellow, blue or red stripes and spots..

Panther chameleon. Source: Emmanuel BROEKS [CC BY-SA (]
In the adult state, the panther chameleon shows a marked sexual dimorphism. In this sense, the male is larger, has a swollen base of the tail and has very diverse color patterns. On the contrary, the female is smaller, has a thinner base of the tail and the body is pink or pale green.

Article index

  • 1 Features
    • 1.1 Size
    • 1.2 Legs
    • 1.3 Eyes
    • 1.4 Coloring
    • 1.5 Color changes
  • 2 Habitat and distribution
  • 3 Feeding
  • 4 Playback
    • 4.1 Mating
  • 5 Pet care
    • 5.1 Feeding
    • 5.2 Accommodation
    • 5.3 Temperature, lighting and humidity
  • 6 References 



The Furcifer pardalis male can measure between 33 and 56 centimeters, being quite large for a member of the Chamaeleonidae family. The female is much smaller, being able to have a body length of 17 to 28 centimeters.


The panther chameleon is zygodactyl, as the toes are fused into groups: one consisting of two digits and the other consisting of three digits. In the forelegs, the three-toed group is inwards and the two-toed group is outwards. This distribution is reversed in the hind leg.

This particular arrangement allows the reptile to have a secure grip, even on narrow branches. In addition, you can perform vertical or horizontal maneuvers with great ease.

On the other hand, the sharp claws of each finger help the animal to climb various surfaces, such as the bark of the logs.


The Furcifer pardalis, Like the rest of the chameleons, it has a specialized visual perception system. The lower and upper eyelids of the eye are joined, however, they leave a central space free. That hole is large enough for the pupil to see objects.

This species can rotate and focus the vision of each eye separately and simultaneously. In this way, you can have a 360 ° view.

When the panther chameleon locates prey, both eyes focus in the same direction. This provides you with a sharp stereoscopic view of the animal, as well as depth perception..


The most outstanding feature of the Furcifer pardalis it is their coloration. This one is brilliant and varies regionally. Thus, those that inhabit Nosy Be Island, located northeast of Madagascar, are usually greenish blue, with yellow and red spots on the head..

As for those that live on the coast of Madagascar, they tend to have a green color, with blue and / or red vertical lines. As for the head and tail they are orange, red or yellow.

The males found in the southern area of ​​Sambava, in the Sava region (Madagascar) vary from dark green to black, without the presence of vertically arranged stripes. On the side, they have a stripe in a lighter shade. In addition, the dorsal crest tends to have a less intense tone than the rest of the body..

In relation to the female, its color does not show variations, according to the region that it inhabits. Usually tan or pale green in color, with hints of peach, pink, or bright orange.

In the following video you can see this species:

Color changes

The Furcifer pardalis It is known for its ability to make sudden color changes. According to research, this may be related to a system of nanocrystals that are present in skin cells. These cells are known as iridophores..

In particular, members of the Chamaeleonidae family have two layers of iridophores, of which the second reflects infrared light. The animal can independently control each of these layers.

In this way, the chameleon can color its skin with different shades, depending on the situation in which it finds itself. Thus, to woo the female or to face a threat, it changes from dark to bright tones in just minutes.

In addition to the red, yellow and brown tones, this reptile exhibits the so-called structural colors. These are generated as a result of the interaction between certain wavelengths and iridophores.

Habitat and distribution

The Furcifer pardalis it is endemic to the island of Madagascar. It is distributed throughout the island, however, the highest population density is on the east-central, north and northeast coast. This species has been reintroduced to the islands of Mauritius and Reunion..

Regarding the habitat, it mainly occupies areas that have an elevation range between 80 and 950 meters above sea level. However, it can live at lower elevations, but it is not very common in those above 700 meters above sea level..

Thus, it is located in dry deciduous forests, lowlands, coastal forests, dry forests and transitional forests..

Also, it prefers open habitats that don't have much shade. Biologists point out that this may be due to the reptile's need to colonize spaces where it can sunbathe. Also, in these areas, the male can display his visual cues, thus attracting the female..


The panther chameleon feeds primarily on insects, including cockroaches, worms, crickets, and grasshoppers. Occasionally, he usually eats some plant species. This animal is considered an opportunistic hunter, as it patiently waits for the prey to be within reach of its powerful tongue.

The Furcifer pardalis it has a very long tongue, which the animal is able to quickly extend out of the mouth. In this way, the reptile can hit its prey in approximately 0.0030 seconds..

The tongue is made up of bone, tendons, and muscles. In the extreme, there is a thick mucus, where the animal remains attached. Recent studies reveal that, in addition to the viscosity of the tongue, the speed with which it is moved and its shape create a suction mechanism.

In this way, thanks to the joint action, the prey is dragged into the oral cavity, where the strong jaws crush it. In the following video you can see how it feeds:


This species reaches sexual maturity at six months of age, when it is already the size and color of an adult. In the vast majority of regions, reproduction occurs between the months of January and May. However, variations may occur, depending on the area where you live.

As for courtship, it generally begins with the male showing off. In this behavior, the male shows the female its bright colors, while moving abruptly and oscillating towards it..

Some may advance slowly, employing a choppy gait. On the contrary, others move quickly, becoming aggressive with the female..

In the case that the female is not receptive to the male or that she is a pregnant woman, she usually runs away from the place. You can also face it, keeping your mouth open as they whistle. In addition, the female stands on the two hind legs, balancing on the male.

In the event that she shows interest, the male mounts her, grabbing her by her flanks, while positioning himself on the left or right side of the body..


Regarding copulation, the male introduces one of his two hemipenis into the female's cloaca. After mating, the gestation stage lasts between 3 and 6 weeks. The females are in charge of digging the burrows, for which they use their front legs.

Once the female has laid the eggs, she covers the nest with leaves and branches, to prevent them from being seen by predators. In this hole, it lays between 10 and 46 eggs, which hatch 6 months to a year later..

The young man breaks the shell using the egg tooth. This is a calcified protrusion that the baby has on the upper jaw, which later falls off. At birth, this reptile weighs 0.25 to 0.75 grams.

In this video you can see how two specimens mate and the laying of eggs by the female:

Pet care


The panther chameleon can be fed mealworms, crickets, waxworms, and newborn mice. Like the vast majority of lizards, it is necessary to supplement the diet with fresh fruit, pieces of fish and vegetables.

In addition, experts recommend sprinkling crickets with calcium and other vitamins, thus increasing their nutritional load. As for the water, it must be accessible at all times to the animal and be replaced daily.


This reptile is much more active than the rest of the species in its family. Therefore, they should not be in small spaces. The minimum size of the cage is 61 centimeters long, 46 centimeters wide and 46 centimeters high.

Three of the sides of the cage should be dark, to avoid stressing the animal. The substrate to place at the bottom of the terrarium is a mixture of peat and sand. It should be kept moist, but not soggy, as mold can grow.

An important aspect is the presence of branches and plants, with access to sunlight. So the panther chameleon can be exposed to the sun, to thermoregulate.

The cage needs daily and weekly maintenance. Food supplied to the reptile should be placed on clean plates, which should be removed and washed after the food is ingested..

Temperature, lighting and humidity

The ideal temperature for the development of this species ranges between 25 and 28 ° C. As for humidity, it should be kept around 70%. To achieve this, water can be sprayed on the cage, especially on the leaves of the plants..


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