Minor’s chameleon (Furcifer minor)

Also known as: Lesser chameleon
Synonyms: Chamaeleon minor
GenusFurcifer (1)
SizeMale length: up to24 cm (2)
Female length: 16 cm (2)

Minor's chameleon is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

Unlike most chameleons, it is the female Minor's chameleon (Furcifor minor) that is the more colourful sex. The breathtaking display of colours in gravid females comprises alternating greenish-black and yellow bands, with yellow speckling highlighting the dark areas (4). Two conspicuous blue to violet, reddish-black-bordered spots also adorn each side of the chest, just behind the head, while vivid red sets off the lower jaw and top of the head (5). At rest, the coloration of the female is green with slight yellowish banding. Meanwhile, the male is cloaked in various shades of brown, black, white and reddish-orange patterning, although in display is capable of bold black and white banding on the body, with the dark bands becoming particularly red or orange on the limbs and tail (4). Additionally, areas at the top and bottom of the eyelids turn vivid blue and two elongated rings outlined in orange and black appear on the sides of the chest (4). Probably the most noticeable feature of the male, however, is the appendage that protrudes from the end of its snout (2), which appears within two weeks of hatching (5). Both sexes have a small crest running down the centre of their spine (2), although it extends a shorter distance in the female (4).

Restricted to southern-central Madagascar (1) (2).

Minor’s chameleons inhabit a range of vegetation types including tapia forest, which is dominated by the endemic Uapaca bojeri tree, and montane humid forest at elevations between 1,000 and 1,650 metres above sea level (1) (5). However, the species has also colonised coffee and cacao plantations (2) (5), and may now be more abundant in these habitats (5).

Chameleons are generally diurnal, solitary animals that are often aggressive towards members of their own species, which may be marked by rapid colour change and aggressive posturing. Opportunistic hunters, these animals wait for prey to pass within range, and then fire out their long, sticky tongues to claim their victim (6).

Little is known about the reproductive biology of this species, other than that females are egg-laying (oviparous) and typically produce 4 to 16 eggs per clutch and as many as three clutches in a year (in captivity) (5). A dissected female contained 12 eggs, each measuring 12 by 7 millimetres (2). Sexual maturity is thought to be attained at around five to seven months of age (5).

Prior to 1993, trade in this species was considered minimal and insignificant but, in 1994, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) reported 1,257 Minor’s chameleons exported from Madagascar, to be sold to the western pet market, a massive increase on just five animals the previous year. The Minor’s chameleon is currently listed in Appendix II of CITES, limiting trade in this species (3). Generally, the greatest threat to Madagascar’s chameleons is considered to be habitat loss as primary vegetation is cleared for conversion to subsistence agriculture (1), but Minor’s chameleon fortunately appears to tolerate disturbed environments better than most other species (4). However, due to a lack of basic information in its ecology we do not know whether plantations provide suitable breeding habitats. This lack of knowledge and its relatively restricted range in terms of habitat and elevation and use of native forest make it a species worthy of conservation concern (1).

As with most other Madagascan Furcifer chameleon species, Minor’s chameleon was banned from export in 1994 (7). It is not currently known from within any of Madagascar’s protected areas (2), although part of its range in Itremo is currently in the process of being protected. More research into Minor’s chameleon is necessary to clarify its distribution and tolerance of habitat modification (1).

Authenticated (30/01/2008) by Richard K. B. Jenkins and J. Christian Randrianantoandro, Madagasikara Voakajy.

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2012)
  2. Glaw, F. and Vences, M. (2007) A Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Madagascar: Third Edition. Köln, Vences and Glaw, Köln, Germany.
  3. CITES (January, 2012)
  4. Anderson, C. (2002) Field Study: Furcifer minor. Chameleons! Online E-Zine, 2002. Available at:
  5. AdCham.com (January, 2007)
  6. Madagascar (January, 2007)
  7. Carpenter, A.I., Robson, O., Rowcliffe, M.J. and Watkinson, A.R. (2005) The impacts of national and international governance changes on a traded resource: a case study of Madagascar and its chameleon trade. Biological Conservation, 123: 279 - 287.