Sex chromosomes in chameleons

Sex chromosomes in chameleons

Science

Which sex chromosomes are present in chameleons has so far been studied rather sparsely. The Madagascan chameleon genus Furcifer is known to have Z and W chromosomes, although sometimes several Z chromosomes occur, so-called neo-sex chromosomes. Recently in the Czech Republic, scientists examined this deeper.

Blood and tissue samples were taken from 13 chameleons to isolate DNA. The animals sampled included one male and one female each of the species Brookesia therezieni, Calumma glawi, Calumma parsonii, Chamaeleo calyptratus, Furcifer campani, Furcifer labordi, Furcifer lateralis, Furcifer oustaleti, Furcifer pardalis, Furcifer rhinoceratus, Furcifer viridis, Kinyongia boehmei and Trioceros johnstoni. Only in Furcifer oustaleti were two females sampled. Subsequently, the Z1 chromosomes of the panther chameleons and the Z and W chromosomes were analysed by microdissection. Gene coverage analyses were performed for carpet and panther chameleons. In addition, qPCRs were performed to compare the homology of the Z chromosomes.

The results show that the morphology of the Z1 chromosomes of panther chameleons corresponds to the Z chromosome of the entire genus Furcifer. The Z1 chromosome of panther chameleons thus corresponds to the Z chromosome of Furcifer oustaleti. The Z2 chromosome of panther chameleons, on the other hand, is a neo-sex chromosome. Both the Z and W chromosomes in Furcifer oustaleti are probably pseudautosomal. 42 genes have been described as specific for the W chromosome.

A total of 16,947 genes were identified in Furcifer lateralis and 16,909 genes in Furcifer pardalis. The ratio of the number of genes between females and males is 0.35 and 0.65 for the two species. In panther and carpet chameleons, most of the genes on the W and Z chromosomes were found to be the same, with relatively few genes found only on the W chromosome. This finding is surprising, as the researchers had actually expected that the heterochromatic W in Furcifer species would have lost most of its genes compared to the Z chromosome.

The sex chromosomes of the genus Furcifer probably evolved at least 20 million years ago, which roughly corresponds to the time when the species Furcifer campani split off from the other Furcifer species.

Heteromorphic ZZ/ZW sex chromosomes sharing gene content with mammalian XX/XY are conserved in Madagascan chameleons of the genus Furcifer
Michail Rovatsos, Sofia Mazzoleni, Barbora Augstenová, Marie Altmanová, Petr Velenský, Frank Glaw, Antonio Sanchez, Lukáš Kratochvíl
Scientific Reports 14, 2024: 4898.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-024-55431-9

New case reports on hemipenes amputation

New case reports on hemipenes amputation

Tiermedizin

The University of Sofia (Bulgaria) has published a new paper with several case reports involving chameleons. The authors describe 16 cases of different lizards that suffered a hemipenis prolapse and their treatment.

The lizards included a panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) and two Veiled Chameleons (Chamaeleo calyptratus). All three patients were presented to the veterinarians with bilateral hemipenes prolapse. Initially, the prolapses were bathed in 20% dextrose solution, after which the hemipenes were manually repositioned. However, the prolapses then recurred, so surgery was the final solution. Under general and local anaesthesia administered intramuscularly, the hemipenes were removed, the wound sutured and the remaining small stump repositioned in the respective hemipenes pocket. Meloxicam was administered as an analgesic once a day for 5 days after the operation. Only lizards in which the surgical field appeared to be dying off during the follow-up examinations were given antibiotics for 10 days.

Hemipenectomy in leopard geckos, chameleons and bearded dragons
Seven Mustafa & Iliana Ruzhanova-Gospodinova
Tradition and Modernity in Veterinary Medicine, 2024
DOI: nicht vorhanden

Photo: Panther chameleon, photographed by Alex Laube in Madagascar

Potential new distribution areas of the European chameleon

Potential new distribution areas of the European chameleon

Verbreitung Science

The European chameleon (Chamaeleo chameleon) was historically found in some small areas of the Mediterranean and Central Asia. Today, however, it is much more widespread. It is now assumed that the animals were brought to their new distribution areas by humans and were able to reproduce there due to the favourable climatic conditions. Scientists have now investigated where there are further suitable habitats for the European chameleon and how the existing populations could develop over the next 50 years.

The three subspecies studied were Chamaeleo chamaeleon chamaeleon, Chamaeleo chamaeleon musae and Chamaeleo chamaeleon reticrista. The former is known from the southern edge of Portgual and Spain as well as from southern Italy, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Tunisia, the western Sahara and Yemen. The second subspecies is currently found in Jordan, Israel and Egypt. The third subspecies occurs between Greece and Turkey, in Cyprus, Israel, Lebanon and Syria, but is actually native to northern Africa and the Middle East. It was probably introduced by people in southern Spain and Portgual, but is now considered a native species there.

For the study, the existing literature, sampling by the author himself, OpenStreetMaps and information from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) were used, statistically processed and analysed. Climate, topography, habitat of the sites and connections of existing populations were used to predict potentially suitable new habitats.

A total of 553 Chamaeleo chamaeleon findings were included in the study. 22% of the finds could be assigned to urban areas, 21% to scrubland and 18% to agricultural land. Most of the finds were made at altitudes of 0 to 100 metres above sea level. Not surprisingly, the areas currently colonised by Chamaeleo chamaeleon proved to be very suitable habitat. Potential well-suited new distribution areas in the future could be the Iberian Islands between Murcia and the Algarve in Portugal, Sicily, Calabria, Apulia and Sardinia in Italy, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, the region between Israel and Lebanon in the Middle East, Cyprus and all coasts and islands of the Aegean Sea. Overall, a progressive increase in all existing habitats of the European chameleon is expected over the next 50 years. The only exceptions to this are probably some regions in Tunisia and Turkey. Further habitat losses are assumed on the Aegean coast in Turkey and Israel. In Spain and Portgual, the distribution area could shift westwards.

Habitat suitability and connectivity modelling predict a latitudinal-driven expansion in the Mediterranean basin for a historically introduced reptile
Davide Serva, Viviana Cittadino, Ilaria Bernabò, Maurizio Biondi, Mattia Iannella
European Journal of Wildlife Resarch 70 (27), 2024
DOI: 10.1007/s10344-024-01780-9

The two graphics are both from the publication mentioned.

New hope for Calumma tarzan

New hope for Calumma tarzan

Verbreitung Science

Calumma tarzan, the Tarzan chameleon, was only described in 2010. It was named after the place where it was found, Tarzanville, a small village in the Anosibe An’Ala region in the centre-east of Madagascar. Due to the previously assumed very small distribution area, the species was immediately classified as “critically endangered” on the IUCN Red List.

In 2020 and 2021, Malagasy scientists searched for the species in many other places in eastern Madagascar – and promptly found it, as a recent publication reports. They searched 46 transects, each one kilometre long, in 23 different forest fragments. A further 28 transects, each 200 metres long, were examined in order to assess the population density. Calumma tarzan was found in 14 of the 23 forest fragments analysed. None of these occurrences were previously known. The species occurred at altitudes of 604 to 1048 metres. Population density estimates varied greatly. In some areas there are only 25 chameleons per hectare, in others more than three times as many, namely 78.

Only a few of the forest fragments are currently protected. This study therefore emphasises how urgent it is to establish further protected areas in Madagascar’s eastern rainforests. This is the only way to save the Tarzan chameleon.

New distribution records and population density of the critically endangered Tarzan chameleon (Calumma tarzan), eastern Madagascar
Alain J.V. Rakotondrina, Raphali R. Andriantsimanarilafy, Hanta J. Razafimanahaka, Achille P. Raselimanana, Rikki Gumbs, Caleb Ofori-Boateng, Jody M. Taft, Fanomezana M. Ratsoavina
African Journal of Herpetology, 2024
DOI: 10.1080/21564574.2023.2291358

Mosquito bites may induce skin colour change

Mosquito bites may induce skin colour change

Tiermedizin Science

Sometimes science starts small: last year, someone posted a photo of a Calumma globifer with a mosquito sitting on it on the online platform iNaturalist. Right there you could see a black discoloration of the scales. I wonder if there was a connection?

A handful of curious people searched for more photos of mosquitoes on chameleons and found what they were looking for: On Facebook there were some of Veiled chameleons, on iNaturalist more of Furcifer minor and Furcifer nicosiai. However, there were also six observations of mosquitoes on chameleons that did not appear to have black spots.

To test the connection, scientists in Madagascar placed two Furcifer oustaleti and four carpet chameleons alone in an enclosure with 25 female Asian tiger mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus), which had not been fed for 24 hours beforehand. At the same time, all six chameleons were pricked in the skin with a needle to test whether this “trauma” would also trigger a color change in the skin. The results were surprising: in the four Furcifer lateralis, numerous black skin discolorations developed after mosquito bites, in the two Furcifer outaleti not a single one. The punctures with the needle remained without consequences in all six.

The authors of the recently published article propose three possible theories as to how the color change in the chameleon’s skin could come about: The mosquito saliva could contain a type of local anesthetic, nitric oxide or other proteins that cause the skin’s melanophores to become exclusively visible. Further research in this field would certainly be exciting!

Mosqito bite-induced color change in chameleon skin
Pablo Garcia, Raul E. Diaz Junior, Christopher V. Anderson, Tovo M. Andrianjafy, Len de Beer, Devin A. Edmonds, Ryan M. Carney
Herpetological Review 54(3), 2023, pp.353-358

Excursion after the conference

Excursion after the conference

AG Interna

As we are also exploring new terrain this year with a new conference venue, there is another special novelty for Sunday, 26 May 2024: anyone who wants to can explore the Fulda “Tümpelgarten” with the Chameleons Working Group after the lecture part of the conference. This is the 13,000 m² site of the “Scalare” association. In a specially constructed aquarium and terrarium exhibition, the members of the association keep a variety of reptiles, fish and invertebrates. Outside, the facilities are complemented by aviaries with birds, squirrels and enclosures for land and water turtles. The meeting point is at 1 p.m. in front of the gates of the association’s premises, which are only one and a half kilometres away from the conference venue.

Photos: Aquarium and Terrarium Club “Scalare” 1925/55 e.V. Fulda

What influences colour patterns in chameleons

What influences colour patterns in chameleons

Science

Chameleons are known for their ability to change colour. International scientists have now investigated what exactly influences different colour patterns in different populations. They want to know to what extent the habitat itself, the distance to other populations or social interactions influence the colour change.

The test subjects were European chameleons (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) caught in La Herradura and Sanlúcar in Spain. The two regions are around 230 kilometres apart. Other Chamaeleo chameleon were collected in the north-western Negev and on the Carmel coast in Israel (around 180 km apart). On the other hand, flap-necked chameleons (Chamaeleo dilepis) were captured in Simbithi, Zulu Falls and Maduma Boma in South Africa. The three locations are between 100 and 550 kilometres apart.

Each chameleon was subjected to two experiments. In the first, the scientists let the chameleon walk two metres on a horizontal stick, which was placed in the sun about one metre above the ground. In the second experiment, a second chameleon of the same species was placed on the same stick 50 cm away from the first. The colour patterns shown by the animal during the experiments and its behaviour were recorded for 20 minutes. The data was then analysed using computer programs. Blood was taken from a cut claw of all chameleons and genetically analysed. The habitats and soil conditions were also analysed in various ways and statistically evaluated. The captured animals were kept in ventilated plastic cages for a maximum of 12 hours and released after the analyses. Unfortunately, the study does not mention how many chameleons were caught and released in total.

As expected, it turned out that the individual populations of both the European and the flap-necked chameleon differed genetically from each other. The populations of Chamaeleo dilepis had significantly different haplotypes.

In the flap-necked chameleon, the females were significantly larger than the males in two locations, but not in Simbithi. The scientists also found that the colour patterns of the three populations studied could be clearly distinguished from each other. They concluded from the results that the colour patterns in Chamaeleo dilepis are primarily dependent on genetic isolation. The habitat itself and the size of the chameleons did not influence the colour patterns.

In the European chameleon, however, the situation was different: Body size and genetic distance to other populations predicted colour patterns in males very well. However, the colour patterns were independent of the location where the animals were found. Soil or vegetation colours only had a minor influence on the colour of females.

Genetic and behavioural factors affecting interpopulation colour pattern variation in two congeneric chameleon species
Tammy Keren-Rotem, Devon C. Main, Adi Barocas, David Donaire-Barroso, Michal Haddas-Sasson, Carles Vila, Tal Shaharabany, Lior Wolf, Krystal A. Tolley, Eli Geffen
Royal Society Open Science 11: 231554
DOI:  0.1098/rsos.231554

Presentation in Zurich about Spain and Morocco

Presentation in Zurich about Spain and Morocco

Live lectures

Dr Herbert Billinger will give a wonderful lecture on Morocco and southern Spain on Monday, 29 January 2024 in Zurich.

When the days get shorter and shorter in late autumn in Switzerland, the sun hides behind a thick layer of fog and the reptiles and amphibians sleep in their winter quarters, his wife Yvonne and he are always drawn to more southerly climes. The lecture is a summary of several winter trips to southern Spain and Morocco. And there is a lot to see there in terms of herpetology!

Dr. Herbert Billing Herpetological winter excursions in Morocco and southern Spain
DGHT City Group Zurich (Switzerland)
Canteen in the operations building of Zurich Zoo (1st floor)
Zürichbergstraße 221
8044 Zürich
Start of lecture 20.00 hrs

Online lecture about parasites in reptiles

Online lecture about parasites in reptiles

Tiermedizin Webinars

The DGHT has created a novelty this year with the digital regulars’ table. Every last Thursday of the month, reptile keepers from all over Germany meet to discuss a given topic and a corresponding lecture. No-one has to travel far to attend, as the speakers and participants come to their living room via an online connection.

Paula Sapion Miranda will kick things off on 25 January 2024. The vet researches parasites in reptiles and amphibians at Justus Liebig University in Giessen and also works at Exomed, the well-known veterinary laboratory for exotic animals. She will talk about common and less common unwanted lodgers. Please register by e-mail to bonsels@dght.de by the day before, and the participation link will be sent out on the day of the regulars’ table.

Paula Sapion Miranda Parasites in reptiles and amphibians
1st online regulars’ table of the DGHT
Start 20.00 hrs