Eggs or no eggs

Internationaler Chamäleontag

Chameleons lay eggs! But not all of them. There are two ways in which chameleons reproduce. The vast majority of chameleons actually lay eggs. The eggs are usually white to beige in colour, soft-shelled and small. Egg-laying species include the genera Brookesia, Calumma, Chamaeleo, Furcifer, Kinyongia, Nadzikambia, Palleon, Rhampholeon and Rieppeleon. The smallest eggs are laid by a small, brown ground chameleon from Madagascar, Brookesia nana. They are less than 10 mm in size! The largest eggs are laid by the Parson’s chameleon, Calumma parsonii parsonii, which also comes from Madagascar. Its eggs are several centimetres long at the end of the incredibly long incubation phase of one and a half years. Incidentally, most eggs are laid by the large Meller’s chameleons (Trioceros melleri) and Veiled chameleons (Chamaeleo calyptratus), although the latter are considerably smaller. With heavy feeding in captivity, Veiled chameleon females can produce over 50 eggs, which is an incredible number for such a small animal. The Meller’s chameleon has even been known to lay over 80 eggs.

In contrast, the genera Archaius, Bradypodion and many species of the genus Trioceros are ovoviviparous. This means that these chameleons give birth to live young that are still surrounded by a thin egg membrane at birth. It is assumed that this is an adaptation to cooler temperatures. This is because the egg-bearing chameleons live high up on mountains, where it does not get as warm as further down in the country.

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Video: BBC Earth, Frozen Planet II