This small reptile has one of the most unique life histories of all the four-limbed vertebrates (the tetrapods), living for just one year and spending eight to nine months of that time within an egg. As the first rains fall at the beginning of the wet season, around November, the Labord’s chameleon eggs hatch. This synchronised hatching results in an entire population of Labord’s chameleons that are roughly the same age. After hatching, Labord’s chameleons have only four to five months of life left, the shortest known post-hatching lifespan of any tetrapod. They grow quickly, reaching sexual maturity in less than eight weeks, when they begin mating. Then, as swiftly as they have developed, Labord’s chameleons begin to die-off, and by the time the dry season sets in, this amazing chameleon can no longer be seen. Instead, the entire species consists of eggs buried underground (7). This extreme life history is likely to be an adaptation to the extreme environment. In the arid and unpredictable region of Madagascar that this chameleon inhabits, it is a shrewd plan to stay within the relative stability and safety of an egg, underground, until conditions above ground are suitable (7).
Chameleons are generally solitary, and move about on slender branches and twigs, which they grip with their fused toes. The prehensile tail provides an additional ‘hand’ on these precarious walkways as they scan the surrounding area with their independently mobile eyes for prey (4). Labord’s chameleons normally sleep within two metres of the ground (7).