What Is a Dwarf Chameleon?

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  • Written By: Rebecca Cartwright
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2019
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A dwarf chameleon is a member of any of the 26 species of Malagasy dwarf chameleons found in the genus Brookesia in the family Chamaeleonidae. All of the species are very small, ranging in size from less than an inch (about 2.5 cm) to about 3 inches (about 7.6 cm) long. Dwarf chameleons are also sometimes called "leaf chameleons" because their coloring allows them to blend into the litter of dead leaves on the forest floor. Their relatively short tails have also earned them the common name "stump-tailed chameleons."

Mimicking a dried and twisted leaf, the dwarf chameleon has earth-toned skin and a variety of frills and spines on its backbone, limbs and head. It has widely split toes, allowing it to cling tightly to small twigs as it climbs in foliage. On the ground it helps stabilize itself while walking by dragging its tail.

Many larger chameleons spend a great deal of time in trees but the dwarf chameleon prefers to remain on the ground except when sleeping. This allows it to quickly hide near or under dead leaves if threatened. At night it climbs onto the leaves of shorter shrubbery, where its coloring allows it to go unnoticed in the dark.It eats all kinds of small insects and larvae.


Dwarf chameleons primarily live in the rainforests of northern Madagascar. A few species are found in the drier deciduous forests in the south and west of the island. When conditions are too dry, some species found in drier areas may estivate, a form of warm season hibernation. They can be found from sea level to altitudes above 12,000 feet (about 3,658 m.)

A female dwarf chameleon lays one to six eggs in each batch. The eggs are hidden and hatch without parental help. Incubation time varies from four to nine weeks depending on the prevailing temperatures.

If kept as a pet the dwarf chameleon requires a 10 to 30 gallon (about 38 to 113 liter) aquarium. Wire enclosures are not generally recommended for this animal because of its size. An aquarium with a wider, rather than taller, shape will allow more floor space for the animal's active hours.The bottom of the enclosure should have at least an inch of moist soil on it, with dead leaves scattered on the surface. Branches or twigs in its living area will give the dwarf chameleon places to sleep or hide.


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