Chameleon at Oymapinar Dam - Manavgat

Chameleon at Oymapinar Dam - Manavgat

To find and photograph some of the ancient ruins along the road from Manavgat to Side was our aim, when we notice a Chameleon trying to pass the road. Thanks to their typical movement of walking, which does not really show too much of effect of reaching other side of the road, we quickly stopped for help.

Even there is not much traffic on the way to Oymapinar Dam, one car is enough already. At first it did not really like to be disturbed (we got this from its roaring sound like a lion, ok,  ….small one) but little later it was relaxed and liked to be photographed. A really curious type of animal, fascinating and very special.

Chameleons (family Chamaeleonidae) are a distinctive and highly specialized clade of lizards. They are distinguished by their parrot-like zygodactylous feet, their separately mobile and stereoscopic eyes, their very long, highly modified, and rapidly extrudable tongues, their swaying gait, the possession by many of a prehensile tail, crests or horns on their distinctively shaped heads, and the ability of some to change colour. Uniquely adapted for climbing and visual hunting, the approximately 160 species of chameleon range from Africa, Madagascar, Spain and Portugal, across south Asia, to Sri Lanka, have been introduced to Hawaii, California and Florida, and are found in warm habitats that vary from rain forest to desert conditions.

Chameleons vary greatly in size and body structure, with maximum total length varying from 3.3 cm (1.3 in.) in Brookesia minima (one of the world's smallest reptiles) to 68.5 cm (27 in.) in the male Furcifer oustaleti. Many have head or facial ornamentation, such as nasal protrusions, or horn-like projections in the case of Chamaeleo jacksonii, or large crests on top of their head, like Chamaeleo calyptratus. Many species are sexually dimorphic, and males are typically much more ornamented than the female chameleons.

Chameleon species have in common their foot structure, eyes, tongues and a lack of ears.

Chameleons are didactyl: on each foot the five toes are fused into a group of two and a group of three, giving the foot a tongs-like appearance. These specialized feet allow chameleons to grip tightly to narrow branches. Each toe is equipped with a sharp claw to gain traction on surfaces such as bark when climbing. The claws make it easy to see how many toes are fused into each part of the foot — two toes on the outside of each front foot and three on the inside.

Their eyes are the most distinctive among the reptiles. The upper and lower eyelids are joined, with only a pinhole large enough for the pupil to see through. They can rotate and focus separately to observe two different objects simultaneously. It in effect gives them a full 360-degree arc of vision around their body. When prey is located, both eyes can be focused in the same direction, giving sharp stereoscopic vision and depth perception. They have very good eyesight for reptiles, letting them see small insects from a long (5–10 m) distance.

They lack a vomeronasal organ. Also, like snakes, they do not have an outer or a middle ear. This suggests that chameleons might be deaf, although snakes can sense vibration using a bone called the quad-rate. Furthermore, some or maybe all chameleons, can communicate via vibrations that travel through solid substrates such as branches.

Chameleons have very long tongues (sometimes longer than their own body length) which they are capable of rapidly extending out of the mouth.

Tongue structure

The tongue extends out faster than human eyes can follow, at around 26 body lengths per second. The tongue hits the prey in about 30 thousandths of a second. The tongue of the chameleon is a complex arrangement of bone, muscle and sinew. At the base of the tongue there is a bone and this is shot forward giving the tongue the initial momentum it needs to reach the prey quickly. At the tip of the elastic tongue there is a muscular, club-like structure covered in thick mucus that forms a suction cup. Once the tip sticks to a prey item, it is drawn quickly back into the mouth, where the chameleon's strong jaws crush it and it is consumed. Ultraviolet light is part of the visible spectrum for chameleons. Chameleons exposed to ultraviolet light show increased social behaviour and activity levels, are more inclined to bask and feed and are also more likely to reproduce as it has a positive effect on the pineal gland.

Some chameleon species are able to change their skin colours. Different chameleon species are able to change different colours which can include pink, blue, red, orange, green, black, brown, light blue, yellow, turquoise and purple.

Some varieties of chameleon - such as the Smith's dwarf chameleon - use their colour-changing ability to blend in with their surroundings, as an effective form of camouflage.

Colour change is also used as an expression of the physiological condition of the lizard, and as a social indicator to other chameleons. Some research suggests that social signaling was the primary driving force behind the evolution of colour change, and that camouflage evolved as a secondary concern.

Chameleons have specialized cells, collectively called chromatophores, that lie in layers under their transparent outer skin. The cells in the upper layer, called xanthophores and erythrophores, contain yellow and red pigments respectively. Below these is another layer of cells called iridophores or guanophores, and they contain the colourless crystalline substance guanine. These are particularly strong reflectors of the blue part of incident light. If the upper layer of chromatophores appears mainly yellow, the reflected light becomes green (blue plus yellow). A layer of dark melanin contained in melanophores is situated even deeper under the reflective iridophores. The melanophores determine the 'lightness' of the reflected light. These specialized cells are full of pigment granules, which are located in their cytoplasm. Dispersion of the pigment granules in the cell grants the intensity of appropriate colour. If the pigment is equally distributed in the cell, the whole cell has the intensive colour, which depends on the type of chromatophore cell. If the pigment is located only in the centre of the cell, cell appears to be transparent. All these pigment cells can rapidly relocate their pigments, thereby influencing the colour of the chameleon.


Life | Outdoors