Parson’s chameleon (Calumma parsonii)

loading
Male Parson's chameleon on branch
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Parson’s chameleon fact file

Parson’s chameleon description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyChamaeleonidae
GenusCalumma (1)

The largest chameleon in the world, Parson’s chameleon belongs to a unique family of lizards exhibiting some bizarre traits. With a large, triangular head, conical, independently-moving eyes, laterally compressed body, and fused toes, the chameleon has looks as strange as its behaviour. All chameleon species are capable of colour change, which is not only for camouflage as is generally assumed. It may also be a response to other chameleons (when fighting or mating), temperature, as well as the surroundings. Particularly comical when walking, they have an odd gait, moving with diagonally opposite limbs. The toes are fused into two opposable pads, giving mitten-like feet that are efficient for gripping branches. The tongue may be up to twice the length of the body, and has a bulbous sticky tip which is used to catch its prey (3). This enormous chameleon has ridges running from above the eyes to the nose forming two warty horns. Its colour varies from green, turquoise and yellow, and juveniles may have an orange sheen. The lips and eyelids of adults are sometimes yellow or orange and there may be pale yellow or white spots on the flanks (4).

There are two subspecies of Parson’s chameleon: Calumma parsonii cristifer reaches just 47 cm, has a small dorsal crest, and is bluer in colour whereas Calumma parsonii parsonii is the larger of the two, reaching up to 68 cm, and has no crests at all (4).

Also known as
Parson’s giant chameleon.
Synonyms
Chamaeleo madecasseus.
Size
Length: 47 – 68 cm (2)
Top

Parson’s chameleon biology

In aggressive fights at the start of the breeding season, males butt their heads together to determine dominance. Females mate only once every two years, producing 20 - 25 eggs that incubate for a massive 20 months. The young are independent as soon as they hatch (5).

A solitary species outside the mating season, this large chameleon hunts during the day for large insects and small vertebrates amongst the branches of trees. It is able to change colour in response to the temperature, its surroundings or the presence of other chameleons (5).

Top

Parson’s chameleon range

Houston’s chameleon is endemic to the central eastern forests of Madagascar (5).

Top

Parson’s chameleon habitat

Calumma parsonii parsonii inhabits cool forested regions whereas Calumma parsonii cristifer is found in mountainous primary forests (4).

Top

Parson’s chameleon status

Parson’s chameleon is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (2).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened

Top

Parson’s chameleon threats

The appealing appearance and behaviour of chameleons makes them popular pets, and as the largest chameleon species, Parson’s chameleon has certainly suffered population declines due to over-collection for international trade. The unique habitats of Madagascar are threatened by human activities, including urbanisation and land clearance for agriculture (5).

Top

Parson’s chameleon conservation

Many conservation groups are working to prevent the collapse of Madagascan native fauna and flora, and the future of Parson’s chameleon depends on the outcome of this work. Trade in Parson’s chameleon is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora through its listing on Appendix II (2).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Top

Find out more

For further information on this species see:

For further information on chameleons see:

  • Halliday, T. & Alder, K (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Top

Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

Top

Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Primary forest
Forest that has remained undisturbed for a long time and has reached a mature condition.
Subspecies
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
Top
X
Close

Image credit

Male Parson's chameleon on branch  
Male Parson's chameleon on branch

© Pete Oxford / naturepl.com

Nature Picture Library
5a Great George Street
Bristol
BS1 5RR
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 117 911 4675
Fax: +44 (0) 117 911 4699
info@naturepl.com
http://www.naturepl.com

X
Close

Link to this photo

ARKive species - Parson’s chameleon (Calumma parsonii) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about

X
Close

MyARKive

MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!

Blog