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Chameleon Color Change: Camouflage and Advertising at the Same Time?

In direct contrast to popularly-held theories, researchers at Australia’s University of Melbourne believe that the need to rapidly signal other chameleons, and not the need to hide from predators, has driven the evolution of the amazing color-changing abilities possessed by these lizards.  In a sense, the primary function of color change is to render the animals more conspicuous – the opposite of being well-camouflaged!


However, the need to camouflage still exerts an influence.  By being able to affect color changes in a mere fraction of a second, the lizards lessen the chance that predators will notice them.

Earlier research at the University of Melbourne has also revealed that at least 1 species does endeavor to “match” the background upon which in rests.  In fact, Smith’s dwarf chameleon actually alters the degree of color change it exhibits in response to the type of predator it faces (please see article below).

Other Possibilities: My Experience

I have noticed that, unlike most animals that display (male birds, for example, often sing for hours on end, even if when other birds are not visible), chameleons only flash messages when in the presence of possible rivals or mates.  This would also seem to limit their exposure to predators.

Chameleons also display an incredible range of subtle color variations, most not visible to the human eye which, I believe, also assists in “getting their message across” as quickly as possible.

Further Reading

To learn more about new research regarding color change and predator avoidance, please see my article Chameleons and Camouflage.



  1. avatar

    thank you! I really liked this post!

    • avatar

      Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your taking the time to write in with your kind remark…much appreciated.

      I look forward to your future comments and questions.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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