From Hatching to Adulthood, A Journey Through the Life of Baby Chameleons
Chameleons are famous for some of their incredible features. They are renowned for their color changing abilities and their incredibly fast, strong and stretchy tongues. But there are many more features, particularly with baby chameleons that make them remarkable and unique little lizards.
In this post we look at a range of fascinating baby chameleon facts, and features that make these incredible little lizards so special.
7 Baby Chameleon Facts
Baby Chameleons Are Called Hatchlings
Baby chameleons start out their lives inside an egg, laid in a ‘clutch‘, usually in a buried ‘nest‘. When they emerge from their eggs, baby chameleons – like baby turtles or baby crocodiles – are called ‘hatchlings‘. A group of chameleons, including hatchling chameleons, is collectively known as a ‘camp‘. The term is most commonly used with baby chameleons, as they are usually solitary animals when they grow up.
There are no gender specific terms for male and female chameleons, though there are notable physical differences between them.
Some Baby Chameleons Hatch Inside Their Mother
Most chameleons are oviparous, but some are ovoviviparous. Oviparous babies are, like most fish, birds and reptiles, laid as eggs with all their embryonic development taking place after being laid in a clutch of eggs.
Ovoviviparous chameleons however, are unique in that babies are still born within eggs but their development takes place inside their mothers. They are both born from eggs, and born live from their mothers. Some baby frogs are born in the same way.
Around 20% of the 200 plus chameleon species are ovoviviparous, including all three subspecies of Jackson’s chameleons. They give birth to live offspring and usually have between 20-30 babies per brood. Notably, the Mount Meru Jackson’s generally produce a smaller number of progeny with each litter.
Instead of depositing an egg in a hard shell on the ground like other species do, these neonates remain inside the mother and are nourished by her within a soft membrane during gestation. They are still inside an egg, but without a shell.
Baby Chameleons Are Abandoned At Birth
Similar to the way baby bearded dragons and turtles are left to fend form themselves, baby chameleons are also abandoned at birth or in their nest.
Of the oviparous species, chameleons will prepare a nest ahead of laying her clutch. They build these nests by digging into the ground. The depth they dig varies by species. Some that lay larger clutches tend to dig bigger holes. Once they have deposited their eggs, like many other reptiles, that is the last they will see of their young.
Even with the ovoviviparous species, postpartum parental care is non existent. As soon as babies are born, they are on their own.
In captivity, siblings can coexist together in the same vivarium but it’s not recommended to keep them together any longer than 2-3 months. After this their territorial instincts start to become more prominent and they can become much more aggressive.
Baby Chameleons Are Born With The Tools To Survive
From the minute they are born, baby chameleons are equipped to give live a go. They are immediately able to eat flies and insects, and don’t require any nursing at all. They can walk and scurry as soon as they have dug themselves out if their buried nest.
There are many predators only happy to make a meal out of a chameleon, and so they don’t hang about on the ground for long. Their instincts are to get into the trees and off the ground and this is usually their first port of call.
Some Chameleons Are Born With Prehensile Tails
These prehensile tails serve multiple purposes: they can be used for balancing themselves on branches and grasping items. Species with these tails can even use them to communicate their emotions. With its astonishingly agile tail, a chameleon can easily curl it several times around the branch to achieve balance and maintain grip.
Baby Chameleons Have Great Eyesight But Poor Hearing
Chameleon babies develop very good eyesight, particularly for a reptile. They develop great field of vision, and reasonable depth perception allowing them to see any incoming predators. They can also see their prey at distances of up to 5-10 meters away.
The positioning of their eyes also allows them to see almost an entire 360 degrees. Each eye can be moved independently, and sit on either side of their head. With each having near 180 degree range, they can see any threat coming from all angles.
The last cool features of a chameleon’s eyesight, is that they can see in a bandwidth that not even we humans can see. Their range of sight includes the ultraviolet range of the spectrum, giving them a larger visible spectrum than us.
While they have great sight, hearing is poor for chameleons. They can only perceive sound within 200Hz and 600Hz range, which is very limited.
Baby Chameleons Have Long Births And Short Lives
Baby chameleons can take anywhere between 4 -12 months and, in extreme cases 24 months to hatch. Despite this, they are only known to live for around 10 years at most in captivity. Some as short as two years. Given their long gestation or incubation period, that’s not much of a life.
Chameleons in the wild have mixed fortunes and lifespan does differ between the 200 plus species. Some species of Madagascan chameleon live only for a few months, while others can live up to 12 years in the wild. In extreme cases, some larger species can live as long as 25 years.
Baby Chameleon FAQs
What Is the Lifecycle Of A Baby Chameleon?
After mating, the oviparous species will lay eggs in a timespan of three to six weeks. Depending on the species, these eggs can take anywhere from four to twelve months before they hatch. In the exceptionally rare case of the Parson’s chameleon, the incubation period takes around two years until hatching!.
For ovoviviparous species, gestation usually takes 4-6 months before they are born live.
Across the range of species, chameleons usually grow to full size within 8 months, and full adult weight within 2 years. Smaller species with shorter lifespans mature much quicker than larger species that live longer.
How Many Baby Chameleons Are Born In A Clutch?
Depending on the species, clutch sizes can range drastically. For instance, small Brookesia species may only lay two to four eggs and panther chameleons between 10-40 egg clutches. Larger veiled chameleons have been found with up to 200 eggs in a clutch. Most eggs however, are typically born in clutches of anywhere between 8-40 eggs.
What Do Baby Chameleons Eat?
Chameleons are mostly insectivores, and in the wild baby chameleons can begin catching flies immediately after they are born. They will eat a variety of insects. In the wild they will eat a range of locusts, grasshoppers, crickets, and spiders. Small mantids, mealworms and a range of flies are also common foods.
Larger species have even been known to eat other small lizards and birds.
When kept in captivity, they should eat the equivalent of 10-20 insects per day.
Where Do Baby Chameleons Live?
The vast majority of these incredible creatures reside either on Madagascar or African soil. The rest are spread across Europe, Asia and Middle Eastern countries.
The type of environment where baby chameleons live depends largely on the species they belong to, and their geographical location. Some baby chameleons prefer humid, shady areas such as jungles or forests; while others may opt for dry and hot plains or deserts.
Natural Predators Of Baby Chameleons
Baby chameleons, though very well developed at birth, are still small and vulnerable. While even adults fall prey to many species of snake and bird, juveniles are more vulnerable to a wider range of predators. Two of the biggest predators are the Serpent-Eagle and the Banded Kestrel. These birds of prey feed on chameleons more than any other animal.
Other predators include monkeys, boomslang snakes and vine snakes. However, the specific bird of prey or snake predator changes depending on the species and the habitat.