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What Is a Panther Chameleon?

By Angie Bates
Updated May 21, 2024
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A panther chameleon is a type of lizard endemic to the lowland forests of Madagascar. Known for their brilliant and highly varied coloring, as well as their unique patterns of spots, stripes, and bars, panther chameleons are extremely popular in the exotic pet trade. The scientific name for these lizards is Furcifer pardalis.

Like most chameleons, the panther chameleon has a casque, or bony raised portion, near the back of its head. It also exhibits the fused digits on its feet common to these types of lizards. A panther chameleon maybe up to 22 inches (56 cm) in length, though the female is usually several inches smaller than the male.

Arboreal, panther chameleons spend the majority of their time in trees. Their eyes, which can move independently of each other and offer an extraordinary range of vision, are especially suited for finding the reptile's chosen food source, primarily insects. Once dinner is spotted, the lizard whips out its extensile tongue, which may be longer than the lizard itself, and captures the insect on the end through a combination of a vacuum created by the tongue's muscles and a sticky outer coating.

The coloration and patterning of a panther chameleon is primarily dependent on the region in which that lizard lives. Variations in coloring from reds, pinks, and oranges to blues and greens, and patterning combinations of stripes, spots, and vertical bars are common. Males are brightly colored year round, becoming more vibrant during mating. Females are relatively drab in comparison, consisting of basic browns and grays, though they too exhibit a color change during mating season.

Mating occurs in spring and summer, roughly October through March in Madagascar. The female's coloring during this time slowly becomes brighter, often changing from orange into pink, and then finally to a black with vertical bars of the previous color. Meanwhile, the male is establishing and defending a territory until he comes into contact with a properly colored mate at which time he can begin a courtship. Once courtship and mating are complete, the female will lay 16–24 eggs after a few weeks gestation.

Although the panther chameleon only lives about two years in the wild, it can live over five in captivity. Pet chameleons should be provided with leaf litter and branches for climbing, and well as a more open area for basking. They require UV lighting, and 60–100 percent humidity, as well as regular misting. Unlike some lizards, chameleons often get highly stressed when handled and so should not be handled regularly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Panther Chameleon?

A Panther Chameleon is a species of chameleon native to Madagascar, known for its striking color variations and ability to change hues. These reptiles are part of the genus Furcifer and are scientifically known as Furcifer pardalis. They are popular in the pet trade due to their vivid colors and unique appearance.

How does a Panther Chameleon change its color?

Panther Chameleons change color through specialized cells called chromatophores, which contain different pigments. By expanding or contracting these cells, the chameleons can alter the reflection and absorption of light on their skin, resulting in color changes that can be triggered by temperature, light, mood, and social signals.

What do Panther Chameleons eat?

Panther Chameleons are insectivores, primarily feeding on a variety of insects such as crickets, roaches, and locusts. In captivity, it's important to provide a balanced diet supplemented with vitamins and minerals to maintain their health. They also require a source of clean water for hydration.

How long do Panther Chameleons live?

In captivity, Panther Chameleons can live between 5 to 7 years, with proper care and nutrition. Their lifespan in the wild can be shorter due to predation and environmental factors. Regular veterinary check-ups and a well-maintained habitat can contribute to a longer, healthier life for these chameleons.

What kind of habitat do Panther Chameleons need?

Panther Chameleons thrive in a habitat that mimics their natural environment. This includes a well-ventilated enclosure with plenty of foliage for climbing and hiding, appropriate humidity levels (between 50-85%), and a temperature gradient with a basking spot around 85-90°F. UVB lighting is also crucial for their health.

Are Panther Chameleons good pets for beginners?

Panther Chameleons can be challenging for beginners due to their specific care requirements, including precise habitat conditions and dietary needs. They are also sensitive to stress and handling. Prospective owners should thoroughly research and be prepared for a commitment to providing the specialized care these unique reptiles need.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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