How Does A Chameleon Change It’s Colour?

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Secrets Revealed Of How A Chameleon Can Change Colour

In some ways a Chameleon gets a bad press as people with bad practices are often compared to them. Sales people are often referred to as Chameleons as they change their actions (colour) to make a sale. It’s an unfair comparison as Chameleons are blending in with their background and not trying to sell you a dodgy second hand car! Enough of that, we now know that Chameleons rely on very small crystals under their skin that can change shape and therefore reflect different wavelengths of light delivering this incredible colour change.

Read on and check out the whole video below which shows a real colour change in a Chameleon


When a male panther chameleon is calm, he is usually green. But if a macho male approaches he might become competitive or angry, and often changes to a bright yellow and red.

Some species, like the panther, can change colour in under two minutes.


Many lizards are known to have several layers of cells with different pigments in them, which can make their skin brighter or darker.

Now it has been shown that chameleons do not use this same process when they change from, say, green to yellow.

Instead, tiny crystals called iridophores, found just under the surface of their skin, are the key. These crystals contract and expand when a chameleon is excited or under duress.


The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Depending on whether they are shrunken or expanded, the crystals reflect different wavelengths of light.

They are like selective mirrors, explains co-author Michel Milinkovitch at the University of Geneva in Switzerland.

“Light will bounce on them only for specific wavelengths,” says Milinkovitch. “The other wavelengths will not bounce on these cells.”

The different colours are created by the sizes of the crystals, and their spacing in the skin.

The crystals are efficiently organised, so the chameleon’s colour is pure and intense, says Milinkovitch.

A male chameleon will often change colour to impress a rival male, or to chase him away.



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