Meet the Beautifully Colored Carpet Chameleon
The carpet chameleon (Furcifer lateralis), also known as the jeweled chameleon, is a unique and brightly colored species that has become one of the most popular chameleons in the exotic pet trade.
Like more than half the known chameleon species on our planet, the carpet chameleon is native to the island of Madagascar. A highly successful species, the carpet chameleon is one of the most common and plentiful types of chameleons found on Madagascar.
Carpet chameleons have adapted to a wide range of habitats, including mountains, deserts and rainforests, but they thrive in an environment with ample humidity (an average of 70 percent or higher). They prefer to live in trees or shrubs, and are such creatures of habit they’ll usually sleep on the same branch every night if possible.
Size and Coloration
Carpet chameleons grow between six to 10 inches in length. Individual chameleons display a great variety of bright and interesting colorations and patterns.
As is characteristic among other species of chameleons, carpet chameleons can change color to communicate. While resting, males have various shades of green on their backs and flanks, with a mid-body white stripe and a paler underside. When fully colored, males can display brighter green colors with yellow or white highlighting. Some individuals show shades of blue, as well.
Atypically among most species in the animal kingdom, female carpet chameleons tend to display more elaborate coloration than the males. In fact, the common name of carpet chameleon is due to the patterns and colors gravid females display, which are reminiscent of an Oriental carpet. At rest, females are often dark red or brown, with white or yellow highlights. When fully colored and carrying a clutch of eggs, they display a black base coloration, with brilliant yellow, orange, blue and even red spots.
Carpet chameleons are almost exclusively insectivores. Their primary prey in the wild includes crickets, larvae and flies. They have also been known to eat smaller lizards and even small species of rodents.
Carpet chameleons are slow-moving hunters that deliberately creep up on their prey. Due to the length of their sticky tongue – which can be the same length as their body – they don’t have to be very close to their prey to trap it. Like other species of chameleon, carpet chameleons have unique binocular vision, with eyes that can move independently of each other, which is a useful adaptation for hunting.
While many of Madagascar’s other indigenous species are unfortunately endangered or at risk, the short breeding cycle of the carpet chameleon is part of its continued success in wild. After reaching sexual maturity at around three months old, female carpet chameleons can produce up to three clutches of eggs each mating season.
To lay eggs, a female chameleon climbs down from her leafy home among the trees to dig out a small depression in the soil. She will lay anywhere from eight to as many as 23 eggs in each clutch, which will take up to six months to hatch. Once hatched, the baby chameleons will climb into the trees with their parents, and are able to change their coloration immediately.
Carpet chameleons are also easy to breed in captivity. Their relatively quick breeding cycle helps prevent them from being captured as pets, so we hope they will continue to thrive, rather than joining the ranks of Madagascar’s many endangered species.