The Colors of Chameleons ~ Kwentology


How Do Chameleons Change Color?

I noticed some time, long ago while watching a movie members of army men even ninjas used a costume that let them blend on the environment. Until I got an idea for where this concept might come from, possibly from a colorful lizard. Do you what is it? Chameleons can change their colors in seconds from brown to green to red to blue. Experts believe light, temperature, and mood affect the lizard's color. A chameleon might turn from brown to green to reflect sunlight and stay cool. Or it might become darker to absorb sun's heat. An angry chameleon can turn dark red to yellow to warn other chameleons to back off.

The secret to this color explosion is skin deep. Under a chameleon's skin is a layer made up of red or yellow pigment (color) cells. Another layer reflects white and blue light. Yet another layer reflects white called melanin, which can make colors darker.

Nerve cells direct color cells to bigger or smaller or cause melanin to spread throughout other layers. If chameleon is angry, the yellow cells might expand. Various pigments blend to produce different colors. For example, if the yellow cells expand and more blue light reflects upwards, the chameleon turns green. (Mixing yellow and blue creates green.)


Move independently of each other, so each eye can look at different objects at the same time.

Long Tongue

Can be one and half times its body length.

Fingers and toes

Are able to grip branches.


Is green or brown when the chameleon is resting. This helps it blend into the background. Pigments under the skin change the lizard's color, depending on the temperature, sunlight, and mood.


Is narrow and shaped like a leaf, making it easy to blend in trees, where chameleons hang out.


Is prehensile, meaning it can curl and wrap around branches.

Because of Melanin and color cells

To change a color, a chameleon makes it color cells get larger or smaller. It can also make its skin darker by letting a chemical called melanin rise to the upper cell layers.

Did you know?

There are more than 80 different types of chameleons, which are found in Africa, southern Europe, and Asia. The largest are nearly two feet long.
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