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

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

New publication: A book about the European Chameleon

New publication: A book about the European Chameleon

Book publications

“The common chameleon – Chamaeleo chamaeleon” fills a small gap in the reptile book market, because until now there was no comparable book dealing only with this species. The authors are Jürg Meier, professor emeritus of zoology at the University of Basel in Switzerland and member of the AG Chamäleons, Juan Pablo González de la Vega, herpetologist from Andalusia and Joaquín Santaolalla, head of the Biodiversity Control Centre at the Málaga Veterinary Office.

At the beginning of the book, the species Chamaeleo chamaeleon is introduced, its habitat and the differences to Chamaeleo africanus, the second chameleon species native to Europe. The rest of the first half of the book then deals mainly with basic knowledge about chameleons in general. The body structure, the modified hands and feet, the highly specialised eye, the ability to change colour and the famous tongue shot are discussed among other things. Again and again, results from scientific studies are incorporated into the text. The second half of the book deals with the life cycle and occurrence of Chamaeleo chamaeleon. Predators are introduced, and mating and reproduction, as well as the different colour dresses of the animals, are explained. Photos of nest-building, egg-laying and hatching of the small chameleons complete the presentation of the species. Finally, the endangerment of the European chameleon and current conservation efforts in Spain are discussed. Many photos and graphics illustrate the text.

The book is aimed at laymen – people who do not know much about chameleons and would like to learn more. It is easy to read and easy to understand, only a few sections get a little lost in scientific terms. A bit of a pity is some pixelated and altogether very colourful graphics in the book, which detract from the valuable overall impression. Ultimately, however, this does not detract from the purpose of the book. It awakens enthusiasm for chameleons, especially among interested nature lovers who have had nothing to do with these fascinating reptiles until now. And that is exactly what it was designed for. The book is currently being used in Málaga as a small textbook in environmental lessons at school and as a purchasable read for curious travellers and locals.

The book is available in German and Spanish. It is self-published and can currently be obtained from the author (see below) or from the Chameleon Centre of the Veterinary Office of Málaga, Spain.

The common chameleon – Chamaeleo chamaeleon
Jürg Meier, Juan Pablo Gonzalez de la Vega, Joaquín Santaolalla
128 pages, Jumeba Sachbuch Verlag
ISBN 978-3-907338-00-1

20 € including shipping
Order under https://jumeba.ch/shop/ or directly via the first author j.meier@jumeba.ch