Do Panther Chameleons Change Colors?

Chameleons are a popular pet and exotic species of reptiles that are known for their ability to change into different colors and complex patterns. With that said, panther chameleons are a more popular species frequently owned as pets. But can panther chameleons change colors?

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Yes, panther chameleons can change colors. In fact, all chameleons can change colors. However, some chameleons can show a broader range of colors and patterns than others. 

Chameleons can change the color of their skin for a variety of emotions. For example, if a chameleon is angry or territorial, it will change its skin to a bright red or green. In contrast, if a chameleon is scared, it will default to darker and dull colors like brown. Chameleons are also masters of camouflage and will typically change the color of their skin to match their background or what they are standing on. 

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As you continue to read this article, we will give an in-depth explanation of the broad color palette of chameleons and what each color stands for. Furthermore, we will explain how chameleons can change colors.

Can Panther Chameleons Change Colors?

Panther chameleons are among the most popular chameleon species to be owned as pets worldwide. Panther chameleons can not only change colors but boast one of the most extensive color palettes compared to other chameleons. While female panther chameleons can change colors, they do so less frequently and have a smaller color range than their male counterparts.

Male panther chameleons have a segmented white stripe that runs the length of their body. Female panther chameleons are less flamboyant than males and will usually stay in dull colors of tans, greys, and pale greens. In addition, males will have a larger helmet or casque, which is more predominant than females. These helmets are used for protection. 

Chameleons have a very long tongue that works similar to frogs and toads. They will shoot their tongue out like a catapult and use its sticky tip to latch on to potential prey. In addition, all chameleons have domes chapped eyes that give them excellent eyesight and can freely move independently of each other. 

Panther chameleons have four legs and on those legs are five toes that form the shape of a “V.” Panther chameleons’ front feet have two toes on the outside of the foot and three on the inside. In contrast, their back feet are opposite of the front and have three on the outside and two on the inside. Panther chameleon feet and toes have an impressive grip, allowing them to hold on to tree branches and easily balance them. 

Chameleons also have a prehensile tail that the chameleon can grip tree branches for added stability. This prehensile tail will be curled up into a spiral when not in use.

Male panther chameleons are much larger than their female counterparts and can measure 14 to 21 inches in length, whereas females only measure 9 to 13 inches. 

Panther chameleons are more active and solitary, and territorial animals during the day. Male panther chameleons will have a much larger territory than females. Male panther chameleons will defend their territory either by chasing other chameleons or flashing bright and aggressive colors.

When a male chameleon is attempting to court a female for mating, he will bob his head and display drastic color changes while inflating his body to look bigger. These actions are also used when defending a territory from intruding male chameleons. 

How Do Chameleons Change Colors?

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Chameleons are known for their uncanny ability to change colors depending on their mood and to assist in camouflage—this uncanny ability to change color baffled scientists for quite a long time. However, the chameleon’s secret to their color-changing ability is out of the bag. 

While color-changing squids and octopuses change their colors by releasing pigments in their skin, chameleons do not. Instead, chameleons change their skin’s structural integrity, which changes how light is reflected off of their skin. Chameleon skin is filled with crystal-like cells, which the chameleon can change to reflect different hues of light. Changing how the crystal cells in their skin are shaped and aligned gives the chameleon the appearance of changing colors. These crystal-like cells are called iridophores.

While many species exhibit color patterns — birds and fish, for example – the cells that allow them to absorb or reflect certain wavelengths of visible light, chameleons, on the other hand, have the unique ability to have full control over the cells in their body to absorb or reflect any and all colors of the spectrum. 

The pigments in the iridophores are normally trapped in small sacs, but when a chameleon’s mood shifts, its nervous system activates the cells, causing them to shrink or expand. The cells of a calm chameleon will stay close together and reflect short wavelengths, such as blue. Excitation pulls those cells apart, allowing each iridophore to reflect longer red, orange, and yellow wavelengths.

However, while blue colors are the shortest wavelength, chameleons are naturally green while in a calm state because it helps them camouflage with the leaves in the trees where they usually live. This is due to the natural yellow pigment combined with the crystal cells in the relaxed state, which reflects blue light. Therefore, blue plus yellow equals green.

While the color-changing ability of the chameleon is due to the crystal-like cells under their skin, why can we see this change of color? We can see the color changes on a chameleon because their outermost layer of skin is transparent. Chameleons have multiple layers of skin that have different crystal cells to reflect different colors of light. Chameleons can also shed their transparent layer of skin, so the deeper layers are exposed to the sun’s light much faster. This allows the chameleon to do rapid and drastic color changes when in a pinch. 

What Does A Chameleon’s Color Mean?

Chameleons can change their color for a number of reasons. For example, the temperature can affect a chameleon’s color, and the color of a chameleon is also an excellent indicator of its current mood. Chameleons can also change their color as a form of communication.

Natural Colors

A chameleon will show either brown or green when resting in its calm and neutral state. These neutral colors differ between species and will depend on their natural habitat. For example, dwarf chameleons spend most of their lives on the forest floor and have dull or dark browns as their neutral colors to blend in with the dead foliage on the ground. In contrast, panther chameleons are native to the rain forests in Madagascar and spend most of their lives high up in the tree branches, so their neutral colors are different hues of green to blend in with the leaves. 

Aggressive Colors

Chameleons show aggression by flashing bright colors. This flashing of bright colors is most commonly seen in male chameleons who are defending their territory from other males intruding on their territory. A chameleon will flash bright greens, blues, reds, yellows, and even white when defending their territory. These colors are used, so they stand out from their background so that they are easily visible. When confronted, weaker males will show dark and dull colors when they admit defeat.

Fearful Colors

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Chameleons who are showing fear will display dark and dull colors when predators attack them. Chameleons will blend in better with their surroundings if they fall to the ground below or attempt to retreat. Chameleons will stay in these darker colors until they are sure they are safe. Some chameleons will also roll into a ball for added protection.

Scientists have discovered that male chameleons will turn dull brown colors to disguise themselves as females. Doing so will allow these disguised males to sneak by stronger male chameleons without picking a fight. Females will also default to these dull colors to indicate their submissiveness or to avoid males. Females stick to these darker colors because males are aggressive when defending their territory and are even more aggressive during mating season.

Chameleon Colors During Mating Season

When a male sees a female during mating season, the male will display a wide variety of color changes and patterns. Male chameleons will do this as a way to impress females in order to mate. When a male is trying to court a female, male chameleons will often change the colors around their head and sides of their body.

Females will decide if the male is a worthy mate by showing slightly brighter colors than their typical dull browns and greens. However, if a female has already mated or does not see the male chameleon as a suitable mate, she will turn darker shades of brown or green.

When panther chameleons have mated, the female will go into a gestation period of 30 to 45 days. Once the female gestation period is over, they will descend down to the ground and dig a hole where they lay their eggs. Female panther chameleons will lay anywhere between 15 and 35 eggs. Then, the eggs will lay dormant and will stay in incubation for 160 to 360 days, depending on the temperature. Once a female has laid her eggs, she is no longer involved in protecting the eggs or her offspring after they hatch. 

Chameleons Will Change Colors Depending On The Temperature

Chameleons, like most reptiles, are cold-blooded animals and rely on the heat of their environment to regulate their body temperature. Therefore, if a chameleon feels like it is too cold, it will turn a darker color to increase the absorption of heat from the sun. Chameleons will do this because darker colors absorb more light than lighter colors, thus increasing the amount of heat intake. 

Final Thoughts

Panther chameleons are fantastic species of reptiles for reptile enthusiasts. They have a fantastic range of colors that they can display at a moment’s notice. Thankfully, we have discovered exactly how a chameleon can change its colors due to modern research. Furthermore, we also now know that a chameleon has complete control over the crystal-like cells in its body that allow it to change colors.

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