Border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia: The veiled chameleon occupies high, dry plateaus and is found near the border of Yemen and Saudi Arabia along the foot of the escarpment and local wadis (inland river valley), to an elevation of almost 3,000 feet.
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )
Distribution: Yemen, SW Saudi Arabia (up to 2500 m). Introduced to USA (Florida) calyptratus: Yemen calcarifer: SW Saudi Arabia, Yemen (?)
Type locality: Bembatuka [= Bombetoka] (in error for Arabian Peninsula; probably near Aden, Yemen).
The veiled chameleon is characterized as an aggressive, brightly colored chameleon. They have a casque found on top of their heads, which is a tiny swelling when a hatchling, but grows to two inches in height. They typically have bold bands circling their body primarily of bright gold, green and blue mixed with yellow, orange or black. They also have very long cones on their gular crest. There is sexual dimorphism.
Males have a larger body and casque (head crest or helmet) when mature. They are born with tarsal spurs which makes sexing them very easy. Male body length can reach between 17 to 24 inches from head to the tip of the tail. Pastel green as hatchlings, mature males will develop a pattern of several colors such as turquoise, yellow, orange, green and black. They are also usually thin in appearance. Females have a smaller head and casque, and reach their full growth between 10 to 14 inches, within their first year. The female's casque is smaller than the males, but they are heavy bodied. Mature females are shades of green mottled with shades of tan, orange, white, and sometimes yellow (Crabtree, 1999).
Veiled chameleons are arboreal lizards, meaning they prefer to live high up in trees or lower near the ground in bushes and shrubs. They can live in dry areas and are found on plateaus of mountainous regions, forests and valleys of southern Saudi Arabia and Yemen. They are one of the few species of chameleons which can tolerate wide temperate ranges, though they prefer to live in a temperature range of 75 to 95 degrees F.
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; mountains
The veiled chameleon is an insectivore. They have the ability to capture prey by projecting their sticky tongue. Their tongues are also used for smell and taste. They have also been observed as having a preference for certain prey types. Green insects seem to be a favorite. However, they are one of the few chameleons that also enjoy the taste of plants. They adapted to eating leaves of plants as a source of water during the dry seasons (Crabtree, 1999).
Life History and Behavior
The lifespan of a veiled chameleon is usually five years for females and up to eight years for males (Crabtree, 1999). They reach sexual maturity within 4 to 5 months (8-12 inches). During the breeding season, females turn from their usual light green to a blackish-green with blue and yellow spots on their bodies within 18 hours of a successful mating. Egg laying will occur between 20 - 30 days after mating. Their typical clutch size is 35 - 85 eggs, and breeding may occur up to three times a year.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Chamaeleo calyptratus
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Chamaeleo calyptratus
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
Wild chameleon populations are experiencing growing pressures on a variety of fronts, causing some environmentalists to sound alarms concerning the long-term survival of these animals. It is yet to be seen whether these chameleons will be able to withstand large-scale commercial exploitation and extensive habitat loss.
Growing human populations in their native habitat causes increasing competition for economic resources. Land is consumed to house growing human populations. Land previously considered sacred is cleared, burned, mined or logged to exploit natural
resource for its current economic value. Chameleon populations are ultra-sensitive to the problems associated with habitat loss.
Due to their slow-moving nature, and their inability to relocate quickly, chameleons have evolved in small, often isolated pockets. To these small, isolated populations, habitat loss can prove to be disastrous. Chameleons are exploited by the locals in their native habitat, and by foreigners. Locally, they are sold live to be used for a variety of purposes. Some natives believe that throwing a live chameleon into a fire will bring them good luck. Chameleon parts are sometimes sold to be used in magic rituals. Growing demand by tourists for chameleon body parts (which are sold a souvenirs) adds yet another demand for chameleons in the local markets (Fry, 1997).
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: no special status
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Live and dead chameleons are sold for rituals and souvenirs.
The veiled chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus) is a species of chameleon native to the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Other common names include cone-head chameleon and Yemen chameleon.
The male is 43 to 61 centimeters long from the snout to the tip of the tail. The female is shorter, no more than about 35 centimeters, but it has a thicker body. Both sexes have a casque on the head which grows larger as the chameleon matures, reaching about 5 centimeters in the largest adults. Newly hatched young are pastel green in color and develop stripes as they grow. Adult females are green with white, orange, yellow, or tan mottling. Adult males are brighter with more defined bands of yellow or blue and some mottling.
Coloration can be affected by several factors, including social status. In experimental conditions, young veiled chameleons reared in isolation are darker and duller in color that those raised with other individuals. Females change color across their reproductive cycles. Chameleons also change color when stressed.
Behavior and ecology
This chameleon lives in a number of habitat types in its native range, including plateaus, mountains, and valleys. Like other chameleons, it is arboreal, living in trees and other large plants. It prefers warmer temperatures, generally between 75° to 95°F (24° to 35°C).
The life span is about 5 years for females, and up to 8 years for males. They reach sexual maturity at four to five months. They breed more than once a year. The female lays large clutches of up to 85 eggs and buries them in sand. The eggs are white with a tough skin. The embryos experience a diapause, a length of time when they are dormant in the egg before they begin developing. Increasing temperatures in the substrate initiate development.
Males display for females during courtship, performing behaviors such as "head rolls" and "chin rubs". Females change color when they are receptive to breeding, and males are more likely to court them during this time.
The veiled chameleon is the most common Chamaeleo species in the pet trade. It is easy to breed and prolific in its egg production. It tolerates a range of conditions and survives well in captivity.
This chameleon is an introduced species in Hawaii, where it is invasive in the local ecosystem. There is a breeding population established on Maui. It can also be found in the wild in Florida, where escaped pets have established populations.
- Wilms, T., R. Sindaco, and M. Shobrak. 2012. Chamaeleo calyptratus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. Downloaded on 23 October 2014.
- Veiled Chameleon. Smithsonian National Zoological Park.
- Ballen, C., et al. (2014). Effects of early social isolation on the behaviour and performance of juvenile lizards, Chamaeleo calyptratus. Animal Behaviour 88 1-6.
- Kelso, E. C. and P. A. Verrell. (2002). Do male veiled chameleons, Chamaeleo calyptratus, adjust their courtship displays in response to female reproductive status? Ethology 108(6) 495-512.
- Andrews, R. M. and S. Donoghue. (2004). Effects of temperature and moisture on embryonic diapause of the veiled chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus). Journal of Experimental Zoology 301A 629-35.
- Detecting the Veiled Chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus) on Maui: Enhancing Control of an Injurious Species. First Progress Report. Maui Invasive Species Committee.
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