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They change color … for love. And not simply to blend in with the surrounding environment. Most chameleons have a color that is well suited to the habitat they belong to. When reptiles change appearance, it is generally to stand out from the background, and stand out in the eyes of the potential partner. Males who compete for a partner often engage in struggles at the last … stroke of color. Looking at the chromatic variations of their skin it is also possible to understand who will win: the specimens that have the most colorful and colorful garment during the fight will prevail.

They reflect light like mirrors. The way in which chameleons change color is also a bit different from what one would expect. Until a few months ago it was thought that they could change appearance by dispersing colored pigments under the skin. But this mechanism is only partially correct. A study published by Nature in March 2015 makes it clear that the chromatic variations depend on a double layer of nanocrystals that reflect light, incorporated into the skin cells of these animals. By changing the position of these crystals, different wavelengths are reflected. In the picture, a Namaqua chameleon (Chamaeleo namaquensis), typical of African deserts, takes on a black color for defensive purposes. In the early morning hours, this color is used to capture as much heat as possible.

They have independent eyes. These reptiles are not only curious in appearance, but also in the way they look at the world. Their eyes are in fact capable of moving independently, each following a different object. But when concentrating on the prey, they converge on the same target, passing to the stereoscopic vision that allows to accurately perceive the depth of field, and activate the language accordingly.

They hide a catapult in the jaws. Speaking of language, that of the chameleons, in the shape of a club and covered by a sticky secretion, can be catapulted outside with the precision of a catapult, reaching in an instant a length that can exceed that of the reptile's body. A 2004 study showed that the tongue of a Meller's chameleon (Trioceros melleri) reaches a speed of 6 m / s and hurls itself at a time and a half away the animal's body in a tenth of a second. In the photo, the meal of a Jackson chameleon (Trioceros jacksonii). See also the slow motion meal of a chameleon

There are all sizes. The last census, published in 2015, has more than 200 species, half of which are endemic to Madagascar. Some are so small they can easily walk around on a fingernail or a match head. In the photo, a young specimen of Brookesia micra, which as an adult will reach a maximum of 3 cm in length. See also the charge of the Lilliputian chameleons of Madagascar

They are a little hard of ears. Like snakes, chameleons lack an auricle and inner ear. However, it does not seem to be completely deaf: they can hear at frequencies between 200 and 600 Hz, and some species communicate with vibrations on the branches and low-frequency sounds not audible to humans.

Some have a bizarre life cycle. Labord's chameleons (Furcifer labordi), another endemic species of Madagascar, have a life cycle that resembles that of some insects, the shortest ever recorded for a terrestrial vertebrate. The eggs hatch in November, with the rains; the specimens reach adulthood and reproduce in January, to lay their eggs in February-March. Soon after, the entire population dies, until the following autumn.

They have pincer legs. This is the secret of the security with which they move on the branches. The legs have two main fingers with two or three claws respectively, which are clamped around branches and barks and allow the reptiles not to slip. The front legs have two claws on the outer finger and three in the inner one. In the latter, for reasons of balance, the proportion is reversed.

Males are more … decorated. Sexual dysmorphism is very pronounced among chameleons, and males are generally more naturally "dressed up" than females: they have horns, ridges and showy nasal appendages (like that of this Calumma gallus photographed in Madagascar). A roundup of horns from the animal kingdom

They have ultraviolet views. In addition to that in visible light. The specimens exposed to UV rays show a greater appetite and a better predisposition to hunting and mating, thanks to the positive effects on the pineal gland, fundamental for the regulation of circadian rhythms.

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