Outdoors just for kids: Turning colors can stop a lizard fight

2013-12-19T00:00:00Z Outdoors just for kids: Turning colors can stop a lizard fight The Billings Gazette

Have you ever had your face turn red when you were embarrassed or angry?

Certain species of chameleons, a type of lizard that some people keep as pets, change colors, too. They modify their skin color to blend in with their environment to avoid being eaten. Chameleons also change their color when they meet other chameleons. For example, when male chameleons challenge each other for territory or a female, their coloring becomes brighter and more intense.

Scientists found that among veiled chameleons, males that displayed brighter stripes were more likely to aggressively approach another male, and those that had brighter head colors were more likely to win fights. Also, how quickly their heads changed color often predicted which chameleon would win a fight.

“Chameleons typically have resting colors that range from brown to green, with hints of yellow, but each chameleon has unique markings,” the scientists said. “During a contest, the lizards show bright yellows, oranges, greens and turquoises. When the chameleons showed off their stripes from a distance and followed that display with a ‘head-on’ approach before combat, the important color signals on the striped parts of the body and head were” brighter.

The lizards rarely fight, and if they do, it’s only for five to 15 seconds. More often, the color displays keep the chameleons from fighting.

There are about 160 species of chameleons in the world. Veiled chameleons, the type used in the study, are native to the Arabian Peninsula. Maybe you remember the cartoon movie “Rango” — he was a chameleon.

— Brett French, Gazette Outdoors editor

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Brett French

Outdoors editor for the Billings Gazette.

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