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What Is a Carpet Chameleon?

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  • Written By: Rebecca Cartwright
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 01 August 2014
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A carpet chameleon is a small lizard native to Madagascar. Its scientific name has been changed in recent years from Chamaeleo lateralis to the current classification, Furcifer lateralis. The carpet chameleon is found in most of Madagascar but is absent from the extreme north and northwestern parts of the island. This species is best adapted to humid rainforests but is also found in drier areas. It displays vivid and variable color patterns, which has given it another common name, jewel chameleon.

Males are generally less colorful than females. Their skin has patches, spots and lines of green, blue, white and yellow. Females show all these colors and more, including a range of bright red to orange and shades of purple. There are often stripes on the throat and lip area of both males and females. The intensity and even shade of colors on a carpet chameleon may vary depending on its surroundings and tension level.

Adult carpet chameleons of both sexes average 6 to 8 inches (about 15.25 to 20.30 cm) in length. Females often have heavier builds. They spend almost all their time in trees or bushes, using their widely spread toes and flexible tails to help them maneuver. A carpet chameleon is agile enough to cling to the bark on a tree trunk or hang from a small branch by its tail and back legs. They live on insects, which they catch with the sticky end of their tongues.

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These chameleons are found up to 6,500 feet (about 2,000 m) above sea level. They usually live in areas with filtered shade where the humidity remains high but often venture into direct sunlight to bask. Carpet chameleons seem to adapt easily to living near humans and can be found in towns and cities where conditions suit them.

A female carpet chameleon may be ready to breed as young as four months old. They can lay more than one clutch of eggs from each mating, making them very prolific breeders if conditions are favorable. Each clutch has four to more than 20 eggs, which incubate for about 30 days. A female will lay up to three clutches a year.

Carpet chameleons are popular pets and usually considered easy to care for. They can be very territorial and do not form breeding pairs so they require individual cages. In addition to the usual temperature and humidity requirements for chameleons, this species requires constant access to water and must have a basking area.

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