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Posted by on Feb 14, 2016 in Tell Me Why |

How Do Chameleons Change Color?

How Do Chameleons Change Color?

The chameleon is famous for changing color. Some can change from green to brown, or to red or yellow. This little lizard can change colors because of color cells it has in its skin.

The color is changed because these cells change size and shape. A chameleon does not change color just to match its background. (Chameleons are not always the same color as the stuff they’re sitting on.)

The color changes are controlled by the lizard’s nervous system. Chameleons change their color by manipulating specialized cells — called chromatophores — that contain different colors of pigment.

When a chameleon wants to convey a particular mood or message, its brain sends a message to its chromatophores, which then move pigments around to change the chameleon’s color. Its color changes when it is angry or frightened.

By doing so, they send social signals to other chameleons. For example, darker colors tend to mean a chameleon is angry. Lighter colors might be used to attract mates. Other causes are changes in light and temperature.

Some chameleons also change colors to help their bodies adjust to changes in temperature or light. For example, a chameleon that gets cold might change to a darker color to absorb more heat and warm its body.

Content for this question contributed by Sandy Hollstegge, resident of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA