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.

What influences colour patterns in chameleons

What influences colour patterns in chameleons


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

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

Lecture in Ulm about Spain

Lecture in Ulm about Spain

Reiseberichte Live lectures

Heiko Werning, known as the editor of Reptilia and columnist for the taz, will be giving an illustrated lecture on 18 November 2023 in Neu-Ulm (Bavaria) about not only, but also chameleons in Spain.

On an exciting journey across Spain, he will show how many reptiles and amphibians the European country has to offer. And the diversity is impressive! Heiko’s journey begins in the Basque Country and then leads through Galicia to northern Castile with its beautiful salamanders. In the central Spanish mountain ranges, the herpetologist encounters the quaint mountain lizards. A few hours’ drive west of Madrid, in Extremadura, Heiko finds himself among vultures in the truest sense of the word. And on the southern Spanish Atlantic coast, he finally encounters the European chameleon and its habitat. Finally, Heiko takes his viewers to south-east Spain, where he has found, among other things, Moorish tortoises and the European fringed finger in the only desert in Europe. All in all, a colourful firework display of images and entertaining anecdotes – every reptile lover should get their money’s worth here!

Heiko Werning The Spanish mainland – A destination (also) for herpetological gourmets
DGHT City Group Ulm
Il Mio Ristorante
Europastraße 15
89231 Neu-Ulm
Meeting from 6.30 pm

Presentation in Bern about Samos (Greece)

Presentation in Bern about Samos (Greece)

Live lectures

Markus Grimm, long-time member of AG Chamäleons and entrusted for many years in Switzerland with conducting expert courses for chameleon keeping, will show a detailed lecture on the island of Samos (Greece) on 08 November 2023 in Bern (Switzerland).

The Greek island of Samos is located in the Eastern Aegean Sea and is only 1.2 km away from the Turkish mainland. It is precisely this geographical location that makes the island with its flora and fauna extremely diverse and exciting. A pinch of culture, integrated into the nature of the plants, with a bouquet of orchids, surrounded by countless animals such as birds, insects, spiders, scorpions, amphibians and reptiles make up the recipe for this lecture. Markus Grimm has been visiting the island of Samos for more than 25 years, always discovering something new. His first visit to Samos was to see the European Chameleon. But it didn’t stop there and so the fauna and flora of this unique island became a part of his life.

Markus Grimm Samos – Die griechische Natur hautnah
SIGS Sektion Bern
Restaurant Kreuz
Jegenstorf (Schweiz)
Vortragsbeginn 20.00 Uhr

Foto: Markus Grimm

Presentation in Basel about the European Chameleon

Presentation in Basel about the European Chameleon

Haltungsberichte Live lectures

Markus Grimm, long-time member of the AG Chameleons and for many years entrusted in Switzerland with the implementation of expert courses for chameleon keeping, will give a detailed lecture on the European chameleon on 01 November 2023 in Basel (Switzerland).

The European chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) describes the archetype of the chameleon as such and thus has status character for the human conception of chameleons. The rather seldom kept chameleon species makes some demands on keeping and breeding, which Markus was able to fathom during trips to the habitat as well as during keeping in the terrarium. After a short introduction, which includes systematics, Markus gives insights into the habitat of this chameleon in nature. In addition, the audience will learn the most important parameters for successful keeping and breeding in the terrarium. So it will definitely be very exciting – anyone interested in chameleons should definitely watch this lecture!

Markus Grimm The European Chameleon – Habitat, husbandry and breeding
The presentation will be held in German language!
DGHT City group Basel
Restaurant Schiff
4102 Binningen (Schweiz)
Presentation starts at 8 p.m.

Picture: Markus Grimm

Chameleons in mythology

Chameleons in mythology

General topics Newspaper articles

With its independently moving eyes, shooting tongue and ability to change colour, the chameleon was already the subject of superstition and myths in ancient times – and has remained so in many places to this day. An article now published by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Böhme and natural historian Thore Koppetsch deals with precisely this topic.

The content ranges from the so-called Brooklyn Papyrus, which described a still unexplained “colour-changing” creature of antiquity, to bizarre events involving mother’s milk and chameleons in the Gambia of our time. Probably the oldest written record of a chameleon comes from Greece, from Aristotle himself, who lived from 384 to 322 BC. The term chameleon itself probably goes back to the Greek: chamai and leon were put together to form “earth lion”. However, this interpretation of the origin of the word is not entirely undisputed. The article also deals with superstitions on the island of Samos, in Morocco, Tunisia, Togo, Benin, Cameroon and Madagascar, and the use of chameleons for pseudo-medicine and occultism.

Chamäleons in der Mythologie der Völker
Wolfgang Böhme, Thore Koppetsch
Koenigiana 17, 2023, pp. 39-50
DOI: nicht vorhanden

Oddity: Use of chameleon powder in Algeria

Oddity: Use of chameleon powder in Algeria

General topics

Dried bodies of Chamaeleo chamaeleon have always been used in traditional medicine in Algeria. In the El Oued region, extracts and powders from common chameleons are still regularly used today for the therapy of various diseases and various superstitions. An Algerian biochemist has now tried to prove the benefits of chameleon powder in a somewhat curious way.

Allegedly exactly 1000 users of the powder as well as 100 hunters and sellers were questioned for a maximum of 10 to 15 minutes by means of questionnaires or interviews. The evaluation of these was not published. However, the author states that according to the interviews, chameleons are only hunted by “experienced persons”. However, the breeding season is left out, so no damage to the chameleon population is to be feared.

In addition, an unspecified number of wild Chamaeleo chamaeleon were captured and killed in Algeria. The organs were removed, the chameleons washed, salted and dried at 35 to 40°C for over a week. The dried bodies were then washed again and re-dried in an oven at 45°C. The chameleons were then killed using mice. Then the chameleons were ground using a mortar to obtain powder. Dry matter, ph values, protein, carbohydrate, fat, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and ash contents of the powder were examined. A relatively high phosphorus content of 14.01% stood out, and traces of iron, zinc and copper were also detected. A relatively high concentration of vitamin E (19.23 mg/100 g powder) was noticed, as well as vitamin B1 (21 mg/100 g powder). Under laboratory conditions, the powder proved capable of scavenging radicals. Also in the laboratory, the powder as an extract at 100 mg/ml showed some efficacy against various bacteria. In a chicken chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) assay, angiogenesis was tested around a powder disc inserted into a fertilised chicken egg.

Several groups of laboratory rats were treated with carbimazole in the drinking water. Afterwards, one group was freely injected into the abdomen with a solution containing chameleon powder, one group was fed chameleon powder in various mixtures, another was given levothyroxine in the drinking water, another nothing at all and a final group was injected with water in the abdomen. After the experimental period, blood was taken and then all the rats were killed and dissected. The rats showed no reaction to the chameleon powder, while treatment with levothyroxine, not surprisingly, resulted in various changes in blood count and blood chemistry.

The author interestingly concludes from all these experiments that the use of dried chameleon powder is safe for use in humans and can treat tonsillitis, coughs, skin diseases such as vitiligo, scorpion stings, urinary tract infections, leukaemia (!) as well as thyroid diseases. However, none of his studies provides any proof of this and so this “study” remains more of an absurd curiosity.

Physicochemical composition and evaluation of biological activities of Chamaeleo chamaeleon
Ouafa Boudebia
Thesis TD571/007/01 der Universität von Eloued, 2023
DOI:  none

Presentation in Winterthur about the European Chameleon

Presentation in Winterthur about the European Chameleon

Live lectures

Markus Grimm, a long-time member of the AG Chamäleons and entrusted for many years in Switzerland with conducting expert courses for chameleon keeping, will give a detailed lecture on the European Chameleon on 14 April 2023 in Winterthur (Switzerland).

The European Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) in a way describes the archetype of the chameleon as such and thus has status character for the human conception of chameleons. The rather seldom-kept chameleon species makes some demands on keeping and breeding, which Markus was able to fathom during trips to the habitat as well as in captivity. After a short introduction, which includes systematics, Markus gives insights into the habitat of this chameleon in nature. In addition, the audience will learn the most important parameters for successful keeping and breeding in the terrarium. So it will definitely be very exciting – anyone interested in chameleons should definitely watch this lecture!

Markus Grimm The European Chameleon – Habitat, Keeping and breeding in captivity
DGHT City Group Winterthur
Restaurant “Rössli”
8405 Winterthur (Switzerland)
The presentation starts at 8:00 p.m.

Our conference programme for May 2023

Our conference programme for May 2023

AG Interna

After we were able to publish a preview of the conference programme in December last year, we now have the final conference programme. This year’s conference will take place from 05 to 07 May 2023 in the tranquil town of Boppard am Rhein. As experience shows that the weekends in Boppard are booked up quickly, we recommend that you look for a hotel or guesthouse soon. Our programme has become a nice mixture of keeping reports, general terraristics and travel reports. Friday is the traditional day for arrival and a pleasant dinner in the local restaurants.

Saturday starts with a classic husbandry and breeding report. Jean-Dominique Dufraine has been keeping Rieppeleon brevicaudatus and Archaius tigris for several years. He talks about his experiences in breeding, but also in the everyday keeping of the two species. Afterwards, Thorsten Negro will take us on a search for Parson’s Chameleons in their natural habitat in Madagascar.

In the afternoon, Oliver Witte will give us an exciting insight into law, legislation and terrarium keeping – don’t worry, it won’t be as dry as it sounds, but very interesting for chameleon keepers. As a highlight, the physicist Sarina Wunderlich from www.lichtimterrarium.de has also agreed to join us. LEDs are becoming increasingly popular in terrarium keeping, not least because they can save a lot of electricity. Sarina will show us the advantages and risks of LEDs and discuss the latest development, UV LEDs. After these two presentations, we have planned plenty of time for discussion and questions, because there will certainly be plenty to talk about. At the end of Saturday, Rayana Vuillemain will introduce us to the Association Caméléon Centre Conservation (Switzerland) – this is the only presentation in English.

Sunday will be another colourful day: Lars Dwinger will report on a Madagascar trip to the southern highlands and the central east of the island. He travelled between carpet chameleons and rice fields as well as in the rainforest of Ranomafana, where he met a variety of small and large chameleons. Markus Grimm will conclude with an overview of Chamaeleo chamaeleon in its natural habitat in Europe as well as keeping and breeding them in terrariums.

We are very much looking forward to a nice meeting and many chameleon friends!