Volunteers regularly do forest hikes for various surveys and manage to capture the most stunning photos of geckos, lizards, snakes, chameleons and other reptiles (not to mention all the other amazing wildlife on our doorstep), but it’s not often that they manage to capture exciting events such as this panther chameleon (furcifer pardalis) laying her eggs, on video.
As you will see in the video and photos, chameleons have incredibly distinctive eyes. With both the upper and lower eyelids joined, there is only a pinhole opening just large enough for the pupil to see through. Their eyes move independently of each other and can focus and rotate separately to view different objects simultaneously giving them 360 degree vision.
Once prey is located, both eyes focus in the same direction, giving stereoscopic vision and depth perception. They have very sharp eyesight and can see small insects from up to 10 metres away!
Did you know? A panther chameleon is also able to see ultra violet light…
Another distinct feature is their unusually long tongues which hits their prey in about 0.0030 seconds.
Male panther chameleons can grow up to 20 inches in length, with a typical length of around 17 inches (45 centimetres).
One common misconception though, is that chameleons of any kind can change colour to match their environment. This is not true. Chameleons are born with a natural colour range that is dictated by their species. This range is then affected by temperature, mood and light.
On this particular hike to do our T2 reptile survey, we spotted a pregnant female panther chameleon (furcifer pardalis) just outside of our T7 transect on a branch.
After doing our reptile survey and returning down the mountain about three hours later, we spotted the same chameleon with her head buried in the soil and she had changed from a light pink to dark purple. Considering her actions and colour change, we assumed she was about to lay eggs.
We sat nearby and watched her dig a hole, very slowly, for about half an hour. While she continued to dig, we decided that it would be interesting to capture her in a time-lapse video, especially considering her colour changes.
After she finished digging her hole, she then turned around and reversed into the hole to begin laying her eggs. She continued to do so for about 30 minutes while continually moving and changing colours.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until we removed the camera and all moved away that she then exited the hole and began covering her eggs with soil. We were then able to see that she had laid about 10 or 11 eggs.
Sadly, despite our best intentions to return to the site to attempt to see the eggs hatch, we soon found out that it takes about 240! Most of us won’t be here in that time, however, we shall be marking the day for future forest conservation volunteers to return.