Furcifer pardalis

Least Concern

Least Concern

Males 14-20 inches (36-53 cm) head and body length
Females 9-12 inches (23-33 cm)

5-7 years

Forest and shrubland

Mainly insects, rarely small reptiles, amphibians, or birds


Habitat Loss
Climate Change


A panther chameleon’s tongue can stretch to 1.5 to 2 times its body length.

The eyes are placed on the sides of the head and each can move independently. This gives the lizard a full 360-degree arc of vision around its body.

Chameleons do not have an outer or middle ear, suggesting they have very limited hearing at best.

Young chameleons emerge from the egg by slitting a star-shaped opening in the eggshell with an egg tooth, a sharp point on the tip of the snout that later falls off.



The first thing you notice about panther chameleons is their extraordinarily vibrant coloration. There is some consistency in color types, referred to as “morphs,” within different regions of Madagascar. But overall, these chameleons show a riot of color, including many shades of blue, green, and turquoise, bright yellow, pink, and orange, and even startling red. There is also wide variation of patterns, spots, stripes, and bands in striking color combinations. Males are typically more brightly colored than females. Like other chameleon species, panther chameleons can control structures in their skin called chromatophores to change their color. They may want to blend into their surroundings, mute their coloration to avoid attention, or make an even more vivid impression to communicate with potential mates or rivals.


Chameleons have a unique way of looking at the world. Their scale-covered, dome-shaped eyes are located on either side of their heads, and each eye can rotate and focus independently, so they can look at different things simultaneously. When one eye detects a prey item, a threat, or another chameleon, the chameleon can turn its head in that direction to allow both eyes to focus on it. They then have sharp, stereoscopic vision to carefully view the subject of interest.


For a chameleon, putting its best food forward means getting a grip—with specialized toes. Chameleons are zygodactyls: on each foot, the five toes are arranged in a group of two digits and a group of three digits. On the front feet, the bundle of three toes is on the inside of the foot, and the bundle of two toes is on the outside. On the back feet, the pattern is reversed. This gives the lizard a secure and strong grasp as it clutches a branch, which allows it to maneuver horizontally or vertically. And they have sharp claws on each toe, which help them climb and grip surfaces that they cannot grasp tightly, such as tree trunks.


A chameleon’s tongue is a wonder of nature, a lightning-fast projectile that hurtles out of the mouth to zap prey. It was once thought that the stickiness of the tongue pad was what sealed the deal, but scientists have now found that the speed and form of the tongue also creates suction in addition to the adhesion. Hard to escape that! The tongue is launched by the hyoid bone— a piece of cartilage that extends into the mouth from the throat—with the help of ringed muscles in the tongue. This highly complex structure is composed of cartilage, muscles, nerves, glands, and tissues that all work together kind of like a catapult to nab an unsuspecting insect.


Panther chameleons feed mostly on invertebrates, including grasshoppers, locusts, beetles, moths, and flies, although larger adults will also eat small reptiles, amphibians, or birds. These chameleons are considered opportunistic hunters: they watch and wait for prey to pass by within range of their long tongue.


Chameleons tend to take it slow. They can remain absolutely still when resting, and when they climb or move along branches, they move slowly and deliberately, sometimes swaying back and forth a bit like a leaf, so they blend in to their surroundings. They have excellent balance, aided by a sure grip from their clutching feet and prehensile tail. When threatened, agitated, or excited, they may puff up their body to make themselves look bigger.

Both male and female panther chameleons are solitary and territorial. Males tend not to tolerate other males invading their home shrub or tree, and they will aggressively display and even chase off intruders. Males have larger territories than females and will roam and mate with more than one female during the breeding season. Females that have already mated are aggressive to other males that come along, and they may change to darker, more drab colors to visually indicate their status.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Chameleon courtship often begins with displays by males, including showing bright colors and a series of jerking or bobbing head movements. Some males advance slowly with a halting or jerky gait, but others move rapidly. A female that is unreceptive may move away or may face the pursuing male with a gaping mouth while hissing, rearing up on the hind legs, and rocking to discourage his advances.

Breeding typically occurs between January and May but may vary in different areas. After mating, a female digs a burrow with her front feet and then backs into it to deposit 10 to 46 eggs. She then buries the eggs, filling in the entrance and stomping the soil down to conceal the nest. Some females drag leaves and twigs over the site for further camouflage. After hatching, the young dig their way out of the nest, and they are then on their own.

Conservation and Threats

The panther chameleon is considered a species of “Least Concern” by the IUCN, because its numbers are currently stable. However, it is one of the most sought after species of chameleon in the international pet trade, which could begin to negatively impact wild populations. Stricter trade quotas have been enforced in Madagascar, and recent export levels are thought to be within a sustainable range. Other threats include habitat loss and the effects of climate change, including drought and impacts on nest temperatures.