Three Horns and a Strong Tail: The Incredible Jackson’s Chameleon
The Jackson’s chameleon (Chamaeleo jacksonii) is fascinating to watch. They walk with a distinctive rocking gait, similar to the movement of the twigs of a tree or bush. And, of course, they change colors to communicate. Also unique to this species is that males have three prominent horns on their faces.
Africa, specifically Kenya and Tanzania, is the native home of the Jackson’s chameleon. Humans have also introduced this species onto some Hawaiian islands.
Jackson’s chameleons make their home in woodland and forests. They will occasionally wander into woodlands nestled among suburbs. They’ve also been observed living on coffee plantations.
Size and Coloration
Female Jackson’s chameleons are smaller than males. Males measure up to 15 inches, while females only reach about 10 inches.
Most of the time, adult Jackson’s chameleons are green. Baby Jackson’s chameleons are colored a light to dark brown with a pattern of white spots, dots and lines that helps camouflage them in the treetops. It takes around four months for them to change to the green adult coloration.
As with all chameleons, Jackson’s chameleons can change color to communicate and to indicate mood. Females turn brown to demonstrate their willingness to mate. When distressed, both genders may turn black.
Male Jackson’s chameleons will defend their territory by changing to a brighter coloration, puffing up their body and turning sideways so they look larger. They will also hiss and sway from side to side. If this aggressive behavior does not make their attacker go away, the two males will then “joust” using their horns. This battle is generally more for show, rather than to injure. The loser will deflate, change color and leave.
A Jackson’s chameleon’s tongue measures, on average, 5.5 inches long. It has a club-shaped end coated with sticky saliva, allowing it to capture prey.
Their eyes are able to swivel between 90 and 180 degrees, and like most chameleon species, the two eyes can move independently of each other. When hunting for prey, they will lie in wait, scanning their surroundings with their swiveling eyes. When they detect something to eat, both eyes lock on it to determine how far away it is, then they whip their sticky tongue out of their mouth to catch it.
Additionally, a Jackson’s chameleon’s tail is strong enough to support its full body weight.
Do Jackson’s Chameleons Make Good Pets?
Because Jackson’s chameleons can be easily stressed by handling, they need a specialized environment with plenty of space and solitude. But in a proper habitat with the appropriate nutrition and husbandry, these enchanting “mini-dinosaurs” are a good choice for more experienced chameleon keepers who are willing to put extra time and effort into their care.