14 February 2011

In the garden

My garden is blessed with many chameleons - probably due to the absence of cats and pesticides. I am absolutely fascinated by these creatures - when I see one, I just have to take a pic.

I'm not the best chameleon spotter: I usually see them just as I'm about to prune or chop something down! - in this case agapanthus. Needless to say I put my secateurs away, and grabbed my camera instead.

The Cape Dwarf chameleon gives birth to live young and I do sometimes see a bunch of litte ones all on one bush. Technically they are ovoviviparous - i.e. they produce eggs but retain them inside the female body until hatching occurs. According to Vincent Wagner (The Life of the Chameleon, 1983):

Each baby is extruded separately, the process taking 5 to 20 seconds, in a fairly tight-fitting membranous bag, with its tail wrapped around itself...The parent prefers to be on a horizontal or sloping, fairly thick branch, so that the bag is deposited on it. With a few convulsive wriggles the young chameleon immediately breaks the bag and climbs out... At 2 to 5 min intervals the female produces the rest of the family, and then unconcernedly walks off, and forgets all about them. The baby has a body 12mm long and a tail 18mm long.

Now that is something to look out for!

The number of young produced varies, but is often around a dozen. There appears to be no fixed season for birth, and there may be more than one litter per year.

The Common Chameleon (found in the northern parts of SA) lays her eggs in soil - usually about 4 times as many as the Dwarf Chameleon. They are laid in March and take 10 months to mature.

Fascinating - these different reproductive strategies.

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