Chamaeleo is a genus of chameleons in the family Chamaeleonidae. Most species of the genus Chamaeleo are found in sub-Saharan Africa, but a few species are also present in northern Africa, southern Europe, and southern Asia east to India and Sri Lanka.

Temporal range: Early Miocene- present, 26–0 Ma
Chamaelio calyptratus.jpg
Chamaeleo calyptratus, veiled chameleon
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Iguania
Family: Chamaeleonidae
Subfamily: Chamaeleoninae
Genus: Chamaeleo
Laurenti, 1768[1]
Type species
Chamaeleo parisiensium
Laurenti, 1768
14 species
Chamaeleo dilepis, flap-necked chameleon


Species in the genus Chamaeleo are slow moving, with independently movable eyes, the ability to change skin colouration, a long tongue, usually a prehensile tail, and special leg adaptations for grasping vegetation. Males are generally larger and more colorful than females. Almost all species have a maximum snout-vent length (SVL) between 15 and 40 centimetres (5.9 and 15.7 in).


The vast majority of Chamaeleo species are arboreal and typically found in trees or bushes, but a few species (notably the Namaqua Chameleon) are partially or largely terrestrial.


The genus Chamaeleo includes only oviparous species.

In captivityEdit

With few exceptions, the chameleons most commonly seen in captivity are all members of the genus Chamaeleo, notably the common, Senegal, and veiled chameleons, but even they require special care.


Chamaeleo is the type genus of the family Chamaeleonidae.

All other genera of the subfamily Chamaeleoninae (Bradypodion, Calumma, Furcifer, Kinyongia, Nadzikambia, and Trioceros) have at some point been included in the genus Chamaeleo, but are now regarded as separate genera by virtually all authorities.

Extant speciesEdit

14 species are recognized as being valid, and subspecies are recognized for some species.[2]

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
  Chamaeleo africanus Laurenti, 1768 African chameleon Sahel, from Mali and Mauritania to Sudan, north to Egypt
Chamaeleo anchietae Bocage, 1872 Angola double-scaled chameleon Angola (Huila, Mossamedes), Congo
Chamaeleo arabicus Matschie, 1893 Arabian chameleon southern Arabian Peninsula
Chamaeleo calcaricarens Böhme, 1985 Awash spurless chameleon Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, N Somalia
  Chamaeleo calyptratus A.M.C. Duméril & A.H.A. Duméril, 1851 veiled chameleon Yemen and Saudi Arabia
  Chamaeleo chamaeleon (Linnaeus, 1758) common chameleon S Greece (Aegean Islands, Crete, Chios, Samos), Malta, S Portugal, S Spain, S/E Turkey, Cyprus, Italy (Apulia, Calabria),

N Africa: Western Sahara, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sinai, Israel, Jordan, SW Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq

  Chamaeleo dilepis Leach, 1819 flap-necked chameleon Congo, Angola, Cameroon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Kenya, Malawi (Shire Highlands), Namibia, Nigeria, Republic of South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana,

Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda (see note), Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire; except in the north), Zambia, Burundi, Uganda, E Zaire, Tanzania (Pemba Island), Mozambique, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe

  Chamaeleo gracilis Hallowell, 1844 graceful chameleon Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), Senegal, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Guinea (Conakry),

Gambia, Benin, E Burkina Faso

Chamaeleo laevigatus Gray, 1863 smooth chameleon Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, North and South Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), Central African Republic, Zambia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Cameroon
Chamaeleo monachus Gray, 1865 Socotran chameleon Yemen (Socotra Island)
  Chamaeleo namaquensis A. Smith, 1831 Namaqua chameleon South Angola, Namibia, Republic of South Africa
Chamaeleo necasi Ullenbruch, P. Krause & Böhme, 2007 Nečas' flap-necked chameleon Togo, Benin
  Chamaeleo senegalensis Daudin, 1802 Senegal chameleon Tropical West Africa from Senegal to Cameroon: Guinea-Bissau, Guinea (Conakry), Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Mali, Gambia (HÅKANSSON 1981), Central African Republic, Mauritania
  Chamaeleo zeylanicus Laurenti, 1768 Indian chameleon Sri Lanka, India (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Southern plains of the Ganges, Tamil Nadu, Telangana), Pakistan

Nota bene: A binomial authority or trinomial authority in parentheses indicates that the species or subspecies was originally described in a genus other than Chamaeleo.


Image Scientific name Distribution
Chamaeleo caroliquarti Moody & Rocek, 1980 Czech Republic


  1. ^ Genus "Chamaeleo ". ITIS (Integrated Taxonomic Information System).
  2. ^ Genus Chamaeleo at The Reptile Database.

Further readingEdit

  • Branch, Bill (2004). Field Guide to Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Third Revised edition, Second impression. Sanibel Island, Florida: Ralph Curtis Books. 399 pp. ISBN 0-88359-042-5. (Genus Chamaeleo, p. 227).
  • Laurenti JN (1768). Specimen medicum, exhibens synopsin reptilium emendatam cum experimentis circa venena et antidota reptilium austriacorum. Vienna: "Joan. Thom. Nob. de Trattnern". 214 pp. + Plates I-V. (Chamaeleo, new genus, p. 45). (in Latin).
  • Spawls S, Howell K, Drewes R, Ashe J (2002). A Field Guide to the Reptiles of East Africa. Köln, Germany: Academic Press. 544 pp. ISBN 0-12-656470-1.

External linksEdit