Why and how do chameleons change colours?

Why and how do chameleons change colours?

So why do chameleons change colour? And how does it work?

It’s amazing to think there are such creatures that live on planet Earth. Chameleon’s change their colour when they feel threatened or when they need to blend in to their surroundings to avoid predators. This being said chameleons can produce some beautifully vibrant colours; who would want to eat such a pretty thing?!

Well it turns out chameleons have loads of predators, like the obvious snakes and larger birds. But did you know even some rain forest mammals like monkeys, love chameleons as a colourful snack.

The chameleon’s uncanny ability to change colour has long mystified everyone! But now new studies find chameleons can rapidly change colour by adjusting a layer of special cells nestled within their skin.

Unlike other animals that change colour, like a squid or an octopus, chameleons don’t modify their hues by accumulating or dispersing pigments within their skin cells, the researchers found.

Instead, the lizards rely on structural changes that affect how light reflects off their skin!

Chameleons can change the structural arrangement of the upper cell layer by relaxing or exciting the skin, which leads to a change in colour. For instance, a male chameleon might be in a relaxed state when it’s hanging out on a branch, and in an excited state when it sees a rival male.

The science behind chameleons changing colour

“When the skin is in the relaxed state, the nanocrystals in the iridophore cells are very close to each other — hence, the cells specifically reflect short wavelengths, such as blue,” said study senior author Michel Milinkovitch, a professor of genetics and evolution at the University of Geneva in Switzerland.

“On the other hand, when the skin becomes excited, the distance between neighbouring nanocrystals increases, and each iridophore cell (which contains these nanocrystals) selectively reflects longer wavelengths, such as yellow, orange or red” Milinkovitch said.

So now you know. These vibrant lizards aren’t so mysterious after all! If you own a chameleon, we’d love to see your pictures; you can send them in to info@petcover.uk.com to be featured on our social media #yourpetfriday.

Did you know we also cover chameleon insurance under our new exotics range!

British Pet Insurance Services offers a range of exotic pet cover levels, insuring; lizards, snakes, tortoises, parrots, birds of prey and small mammals. With up to £5,000 vet fees and a range of optional extras, select the level of cover to suit your needs.

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