Colorful chameleon on a leaf

Is a Chameleon a Lizard?

Yes. A chameleon is a lizard.

But even within the lizard family, chameleons are quite unique. Among other features, their unique eyes, feet, tongues, and tails, as well as their color-changing abilities, set chameleons apart from other lizards.

Is a Chameleon a Lizard?

Considering its many unique features, from its color-changing abilities to its bulging, conical-shaped, independently rotating eyes, and especially its projectile tongue, it’s no wonder many people ask, “Is a chameleon a Lizard?”

As a matter of fact, yes. Chameleons are lizards. Not only are they lizards, but they are one of the most unique and diverse families of lizards.

Native to Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands, nearly half of the world’s chameleon population can be found on the island of Madagascar, 200 kilometers east of the African continent. Between 90 to 100 of the 200 chameleon species are native to the island of Madagascar.

The smallest known species, the Micro Chameleon, lives on a desert island 30 kilometers away from Madagascar, and grows to be a mere 2.5 cm in length from head to tail. It’s so small that it must seek shelter from the rain underneath the leaves on the forest floor during Madagascar’s rainy season.

Micro chameleon on a branch

In contrast, the largest species of chameleon, the Parson’s Chameleon, lives on the main island of Madagascar and can grow to be up to 68 cm (over 26 in.) from head to tail.

Chameleons are, perhaps, the most easily identified species of lizard. They are distinguished by their:

  • Flattened bodies
  • Stereoscopic eyes that provide binocular vision and move independently to give the chameleon a 360º view of its surroundings
  • Color changeability
  • Zygodactylous feet designed for pincer-like grasping onto tree limbs
  • Prehensile tail that can grip branches like a monkey’s tail and provide excellent balance
  • Projectile tongues that launch toward their prey with dizzying speed and accuracy

Is a Chameleon a Reptile?

If a chameleon is a lizard, it would seem obvious that it is also a reptile. However, because of the fact that some chameleon species give live birth rather than birth by eggs, it’s not always obvious that a chameleon is a reptile.

So what are the chief characteristics of a reptile, and do chameleons share those characteristics?

Reptiles are:

  • Cold-blooded
  • Lung-breathing
  • Vertebrate
  • Scaly-skinned

And yes, chameleons match every one of those characteristics! But to dig in a bit further, there are three classes of reptile:

  1. Chelonia – which encompasses turtles and tortoises
  2. Crocodilia – which encompasses crocodiles and alligators
  3. Squamata – which encompasses snakes and lizards

The lizard family within the Squamata class is divided into two sub-classes:

  1. Iguania
  2. Scleroglossa

Chameleons belong to the Iguania sub-class.

Types of Chameleons

Scientists have identified 202 types of chameleons. Here are the top 25:

  1. Panther Chameleon
  2. Veiled Chameleon
  3. Jackson’s Chameleon
  4. Carpet Chameleon
  5. Meller’s Chameleon
  6. Malagasy Giant Chameleon
  7. Parson’s Chameleon
  8. Common Chameleon
  9. Senegal Chameleon
  10. Flap-Necked Chameleon
  11. Four-Horned Chameleon
  12. Fischer’s Chameleon
  13. Tiger Chameleon
  14. Spectral Pygmy Chameleon
  15. Brown Leaf Chameleon
  16. Rhinoceros Chameleon
  17. Graceful Chameleon
  18. Owen’s Chameleon
  19. Elliot’s Chameleon
  20. Crested Chameleon
  21. O’Shaughnessy’s Chameleon
  22. Black-Headed Dwarf Chamelon
  23. Smith’s Dwarf Chameleon
  24. Brookesia Micra (Micro Chameleon)
  25. Jeweled Chameleon

Many of these chameleon species are commonly kept as pet chameleons. The most popular pet chameleons species are the Veiled Chameleon, the Panther Chameleon, and the Jackson’s Chameleon.

Takeaway: Is a chameleon a lizard? Yes. Chameleons are a very diverse family of lizards consisting of over 200 chameleon species. They are found in Africa, Asia, and parts of the Pacific Islands, with nearly half of the worldwide chameleon population found on the island of Madagascar.

Your chameleon needs a wide variety of highly-nutritious, gut-loaded insects as the main staple of its diet. The Dubia roaches offered by Dragon’s Diet are a great start to keeping your chameleon well-nourished, happy, and living its best life.
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