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.

Presentation in Kassel about Morocco

Presentation in Kassel about Morocco

Reiseberichte Live lectures

On Saturday, 16 September 2023, Uwe Prokoph will give a lecture on a herpetological journey to the Western Sahara and the south of Morocco. Although the landscape there seems rather hostile at first glance, there is a lot to discover, especially in reptiles!

Uwe Prokoph Desert Wonderworlds
DGHT Stadtgruppe Kassel
House Schönewald
Wilhelmstraße 17
34233 Fuldatal
from 6 o’clock p.m.

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

Fossil finds of Chamaeleo chamaeleon in Morocco

Fossil finds of Chamaeleo chamaeleon in Morocco


There have only been a few fossil finds of reptiles from Morocco so far, especially concerning Agama bibronii and Chamaeleo chamaeleon. Archaeologists from the National Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (Institut National des Sciences de l’Archéologie et du Patrimoine, INSAP) in Rabat, Morocco, have now published an overview of Moroccan finds.

The rock cave of Ifri n’Ammar belongs to the Rif mountain range, which runs about 50 km away from the northeast coast of Morocco and is part of the Atlas Mountains. Ifri n’Ammar is located in a valley south of the town of Afso, on the border of two wadis. Since 1997, excavations have been led there by INSAP and the German Commission for Archaeology of Non-European Cultures (KAAK). Two Os prefrontale, two Os postorbitofrontale, three Os maxillare (upper jaw), six pieces of bone with acrodont teeth, and three vertebrae could be assigned to the family Chamaeleonidae so far. The distinction from fossil remains of agamas was quite clear: agamas have pleurodont teeth in the anterior region of the maxilla, whereas chameleons have only acrodont teeth. In addition, the shape and position of the nostrils differ. Agamas also do not have the bony tubercles and “crests” typical of chameleons. Since Chamaeleo chamaeleo is the only representative of the chameleons found in the Maghreb today, the fossils were attributed to this species.

The fossils were all found in a layer at a depth of three meters, which is assigned to the Middle Stone Age. The fossil remains are therefore between 83,000 and 171,000 years old, which is considerably older than the remains discovered so far for chameleons in Morocco (Tarofalt, Guenfouda) and Algeria (Gueldaman). The archaeologists assume that at that time the area around the site must have still been tree-covered.

It is partly questionable how the pieces of bone from Ifri n’Ammar arrived at the finding sites. Traces on some bones indicate digestion processes and thus that the associated chameleons were consumed as prey. So not all of the chameleons found there died a natural death. According to the traces, birds of prey and small carnivores such as the gundi (a North African rodent) or simply rats could be possible predators.

Agama bibronii (Sauria: Agamidae) et Chamaeleo chamaeleon (Sauria: Chamaeleonidae) d’Ifri n’Ammar (Rif oriental, Maroc)
Touria Moushine, Fethi Amani, Abdeslam Mikdad
Quaternaire 33 (03), 2022
DOI: 10.4000/quaternaire.16948