The Meller's Chameleon

The Meller's Chameleon
The Meller’s chameleon is the largest chameleon living in Africa that is not native to Madagascar. When you consider that approximately half the world’s chameleon population lives on the island of Madagascar, it is quite impressive. This species is native to East Africa. Their natural habitat is mostly located in Malawi, Northen Mozambique and Tanzania. The Meller’s chameleon can be found in bushy savannahs and interior mountains.

The Meller’s chameleon scientific name for this species is Chamaeleo melleri. This reptile belongs to the Chamaeleo genus. The name of this species comes from a Dr. Meller mentioned in a description written by famous biologist, John Gray, in 1865.

The male can reach a length up to 21 inches (50 cm) and weigh as much as 14.4 ounces (408 g). The female is known to be small, but, unless she is bulging with a clutch of eggs, there is no other way to differentiate it from the male. The female produces one clutch of approximately 80 eggs, every year.

This species’ description includes a few specific details, one being the fact that the length of their tail represents one third of his stubby body’s total length. A dorsal crest start at the back of the head and ends approximately half way down the tail. The crest is low and scalloped. These crests are not as large in females comparatively to males. A medial crest start at the base of the head and reaches the end of the snout where it meets one small horn. This horn and the large size of this species are the sources of his nickname: Giant One-Horned Chameleon.

The body of the Meller’s chameleon is covered with granular scales. In fact, it is displayed in longitudinal rows on its throat. Their eyes appear to be sitting on top of their head instead of in it as they are located in large occipital lobes. The upper and lower eyelids are fused, allowing only enough for the pupil to see. Each eye can move independently from the other and have a field of vision up to 360 degrees.

Each foot has five toes, of which two groups of fused toes can be seen (a group of two toes and a group of three toes). This allows the chameleon to grab on narrow branches easily.

Like others other species, the Meller’s chameleon changes color according to his health condition or his stress level. While this species displays dark green and white or yellow stripes, other colors can appear on his body. When stressed, dark green spots appear on them, turning even black as the stress level increases. When the Meller’s chameleon is affected by extreme stress, it will turn charcoal grey at first then gradually turn white with yellow stripes. When sickness strikes, the chameleon’s body will be covered with pink, brown, grey or white spots. If a female is pregnant, its body will be covered with black, cream and grey. As you can see, contrary to the popular belief, chameleons change color to match their emotions and reactions, not their environment.

The newborns can reach up to 4 inches (10 cm) in length. As carnivores, they feed on smaller insects such as: crickets and drosophilidae for the first three weeks of their life. As they grow, they can graduate from small insects to a more substantial menu of: house flies, silkworms, locusts and cockroaches.

Adult chameleons mostly feed on: spiders, insects, small lizards and caterpillars. Some larger individuals belonging to this species have also been known to eat birds. Their long tongue can catapult itself on preys as far as 20 inches away (51 cm).

The Meller’s chameleon is one of a few species known to live in groups. Although they are more sociable than most species, some individuals can display an aggressive behavior towards their peers.

In the wilderness, the life expectancy of a Meller’s chameleon is 12 years. Unfortunately, this species suffers from a high mortality rate, when living in captivity.

This comes from several facts, one being the amount of parasites it carries from the wilderness. Another fact is the difficult living conditions needing to be duplicated when raised as pets. In order to ensure a good quality of life, they need a large, elevated cage, a peculiar diet and specific day (80-85 degrees Fahrenheit or 27-29 degrees Celsius) and night (low 60’s Fahrenheit or approximately 16 degrees Celsius) temperatures.

The Meller’s chameleon is an interesting creature. Like other species of its genus, it has special characteristics that make it worth studying. Don’t you agree?

Here are some resources linked to the Meller's chameleon.

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Meller's Chameleon, Native to Tanzania
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