Chameleons are unique reptiles. Not only do they change their color, but they also stand out in their movement speed and style. Therefore, whether chameleons move so slow to adapt in the wild or not, we understand it is a concern that requires your attention.
So, why do chameleons move so slow? Chameleons move slowly to catch their prey in the wild. Their prey includes insects such as crickets and grasshoppers. To hunt its prey, a chameleon will approach it slowly while maintaining its head still. This slow movement provides less distraction, and the prey will not sense its predator approaching.
Once the chameleon gets close to its prey, it shoots its tongue and sticks to the insect. The tongue of a chameleon is twice its body length such that it does not have to move so fast in search of food. Instead, it only needs to get close to its prey and cover the remaining distance with its tongue.
The evolutionary adaptations of chameleons, including their slow movement and ability to change color, are still a mystery to many. Like other vertebrates, chameleons move a limb at a time in a pattern of moving the left foreleg, then the right hind leg, and so on. This feature enables a chameleon to survive in the wild and live most, if not its full lifespan.
Chameleons walk slowly from one branch to another because they lack the physiology and habitat to run or hide from their predators. Unlike other lizards, chameleons lack a running skeleton and muscles, and even if they wanted to, they could not run as fast as other lizards.
Since chameleons are arboreal pets, they do not need fast movements to run away from their predators. Instead, they need strong claws to provide the grip and prevent them from falling while escaping from predator attacks. The arboreal habitat also lacks spaces to hide; hence, the need to utilize other adaptive features.
The slow-motion in chameleons make it easy for them to catch prey and stay hidden from their predators. Despite their slow-motion, they can still survive in the wild since most of their prey, including snakes and birds, are not very intelligent in their hunting techniques. Also, their foot adaptation enables them to have a tight grip, making it difficult for birds, which can easily access them on trees, to prey on them.
To compensate for the slow movement, chameleons have an incredibly fast tongue. It takes 0.07seconds for a chameleon’s tongue to reach its prey. The speed at which a chameleon shoots its tongue is so fast that you can barely see the movement with your bare eyes. This tongue is also long and sticky, making it a useful tool for catching insects even in the air. Their tongue is between 1.5 and 2 times their body length, excluding the tail. It also expands on its end, forming a suction after catching the insect.
Why Chameleons Walk Funny?
Watching your chameleon walk can be very entertaining. If you like gazing at your pet in its enclosure, you have probably noted its funny movement. This alone can be a source of entertainment and bonding, given that chameleons are solitary pets and do not like human interactions.
Chameleons have a funny back and forth movement to reduce the chances of their predator seeing them. This funny motion breaks their image to their predators. It blends a chameleon with its environment by mimicking the moving leaves and branches in a breeze, making it difficult for a predator to spot a chameleon as it moves.
With their leaf-shaped body shape and green color, it is even more difficult for a predator to spot a chameleon in the wild. Most enclosures do not allow the breeze in captivity, and the setup has fewer branches and leaves.
A chameleon in captivity will still move in this funny motion due to its instinct. Also, despite the impact of evolution on pets bred in captivity, chameleons will still exhibit this movement in either habitat.
Why Do Chameleons Move Back and Forth?
Chameleons are arboreal lizards and live most of their lives in trees; hence, do not compete for food with other lizards. They also exhibit a unique slow movement that enables them to survive in the wild.
The back and forth movement in chameleons is a prey-catching strategy that protects them from their predators. If you observe a chameleon walking, it seems hesitant due to its back and forth movement. This movement imitates the leaves movement in a breeze. Since chameleons spend most of their time in trees, this movement keeps their predators at bay as they cannot notice them.
In addition to the back and forth movement, a chameleon’s grip offers additional protection from predators such as birds which will carry their prey using their talons. A chameleon’s foot has five toes. The outer group of the front toes comprises two toes, and the inner one has three toes. These toes allow a chameleon to grip the tree branches tightly and attain balance.
On the end of these toes are sharp claws to grip surfaces and provide additional stability as the chameleon climbs and moves from branch to branch. They also use their tails for stability during these movements. A chameleon’s tail is prehensile and can grasp branches and leaves.
When a chameleon is climbing or moving, it wraps its tail around branches, explaining why it is difficult for these creatures to fall. However, if a predator removes the prehensile tail, or it falls off, it cannot grow back like other lizards. With the above grip strengths, it is difficult for a bird to prey on a chameleon from its branches as the grips are extremely tight.
The back and forth movement in chameleons is also a hunting strategy. This movement not only enables them to avoid their predators but also become better predators. Since a chameleon blends so well with the branches of a tree, it will be difficult for an undoubting prey to know their prey is approaching. This enables the chameleon to draw closer to its prey and catch it with its tongue.
Also, through this movement, a chameleon will estimate the distance between itself and the prey using parallax motion, where closer objects will move more when it moves closer. The ability of a chameleon to move and keep its head still during movement also enables it to spot and get closer to its prey.
This is because animals are oblivious when their head is moving and may need to stop to see you. After finding its prey, the chameleon will focus on it using both eyes and then shoot its tongue.
Can Chameleons Move Fast?
Generally, chameleons move slowly whether or not it is hunting or being hunted. To compensate for this slow movement, they have a very fast tongue that enables them to catch their prey. However, can they move fast?
Despite their slow movement and funny gait, chameleons can move fast. If a chameleon is threatened, it will run for its safety. Its run, compared to other lizards, is generally slow. While chameleons can run for their safety, they will never run to look for food but instead use their long sticky tongue.
This tongue is longer than their body, and a chameleon only needs to get close enough to its prey and shoot its tongue out.
Finally, depending on the species of chameleon, the speed will vary. Chameleons which spend most of their life on land are likely to run faster than arboreal chameleons. Despite their slow motion, you need not worry about a chameleon’s safety as its tight grip will discourage prey such as birds from hunting it.
Chameleons are the slowest of all lizard species. They move in a funny, back and forth movement on land and in trees. Since they are arboreal creatures, their slow movement enables them to catch their prey.
A chameleon will get close to its prey without noticing and shoot its tongue at a fast speed and catch it. Its back and forth movement, on the other hand, prevents its predators from spotting it. This movement mimics the leaves against a breeze. Coupled with camouflage, it will be difficult for prey such as birds and snakes from noticing a chameleon.
While it is common for birds to prey on chameleons since they share a habitat, it is difficult for a bad to lift a chameleon from its branch of the tree. These creatures have strong claws that provide a firm grip on the tree branches. Their tail offers additional grip and balance, further protecting it from its prey.
Finally, while chameleons move slowly, they can still run if threatened. However, their run is slower than most lizards and cannot last a longer distance. A chameleon that spends the most time on land is likely to be faster than an arboreal chameleon.