The Common Chameleon—the Only Chameleon Found in Europe
Flora and Fauna of Portugal
Portugal has a very varied fauna and flora, due in part to its mixture of habitats ranging from mountains and forests through to arid semi/desert scrubland. There are many lizards and other reptiles in the country and one of the most interesting is the common chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon), which only lives in the south where it is warm enough.
Also known as the Mediterranean chameleon, it is found in parts of Portugal’s Algarve area and also has colonies in southern Spain, and with populations in Greece, Malta, Cyprus and parts of Morocco and North Africa, as well as in countries in the Middle East. It is the only type of chameleon found in Europe.
Common chameleon or Mediterranean chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) - Cyprus
Description of the Common Chameleon
The common chameleon is mainly some shade of green, yellowish-green or brown in colour and is mostly found living in bushes and small trees in scrubland areas. It has a prehensile tail and four-toed feet that it uses to grasp the twigs and branches it climbs about on. Like most chameleons, it can change its skin colouration, though this is a response to light, temperature, and feelings, not an attempt to camouflage itself.
The common chameleon hunts insects and spiders as food, and they are said to enjoy eating mantises and wasps. However, this chameleon is reported to also resort to cannibalism at times and will eat smaller individuals of its own species.
It is said to take a small amount of fruit at times as well.
Common chameleons stalk their prey and shoot out their long tongues to catch the small creatures they eat.
Common chameleons hibernate from late autumn and through the winter when food is harder to find and the temperature drops a lot. They dig burrows in the sandy soil.
Common chameleons mostly live on their own and establish individual territories that they patrol regularly. These reptiles are happy living as solitary creatures, however, they seek others of their own type when they are seeking mates.
Common chameleons take a year or more to become sexually mature. The mating season is from mid-July through to mid-September and at these times the males will fight over females of their species. After mating the larger female chameleons deposit clutches of eggs which they bury in the ground. These eggs need a long incubation time and can take as long as a year before they hatch out.
Chameleon of the Algarve
The common chameleon is under threat in Portugal mostly because of loss of its natural habitat due to the widespread and continuing building development projects caused by an increase in tourism in the area. This chameleon is also caught to be sold as pets but this species does not do well in captivity and sadly it has been observed that most caught specimens will die not long after capture.
Common chameleons do best in the wild!
© 2015 Steve Andrews