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How Do Chameleons Move

Have you ever watched your chameleon walk?

Does the way your chameleon walk make you laugh?

If you find the way they walk entertaining, you might wonder:

How do chameleons move, and why do these animals walk in such a funny way?

Chameleons move slowly with jerky, back and forth movements, using their grouped toes and tails to give them an added layer of protection from predators. Their gait mimics the way leaves move in a breeze, reducing the chance of predators seeing them as they move.

Continue reading this article for even more information on how chameleons move and why they have such a funny walk.

how do chameleons move

How Do Chameleons Move?

Chameleons use slow movements to travel from tree branch to tree branch, moving in a way to mimic leaves blowing in a breeze.

They travel by moving one limb at a time, edging themselves along.

Like other limbed vertebrates, chameleons follow the same pattern of moving their left foreleg, right hind leg, and so on.

For most species of chameleons, they prefer a forest habitat.

These animals are mostly arboreal, meaning they live most of their lives in the trees traveling from branch to branch and spend very little time on the ground.

Generations on generations of chameleons have adapted to this lifestyle in the trees, and their feet show this evolution.

An interesting feature of chameleons is how their toes are divided into groups of two or three toes per group, allowing them to grab around the branch and maintain their balance.

Think of their feet like the tongs you find in your kitchen or even your own hands where your fingers and thumb can grab objects.

Chameleons’ feet have five toes each, and on the front feet, the outer group of toes is made up of two, and the inner grouping contains the other three of their toes.

On their hind legs, the configuration is reversed, with three in the outer grouping and two toes in the inner group.

These feet are specialized to grip tightly when branches might be narrow or even have rough bark.

On the end of each of those toes, chameleons have a sharp claw to grip surfaces and give added stability as they climb.

They will also use their tails to help keep them stable as they travel along the tree branches.

Most chameleons have a prehensile tail, which they can use to wrap around branches as they climb.

Because this tail is prehensile, the chameleon cannot grow it back if it is removed or lost to a predator, like some other lizards can if they lose their tail.

Why Do Chameleons Walk Funny?

If you often catch yourself gazing at your chameleon watching him move throughout his enclosure, you probably have noticed the funny way he walks.

These animals have an interesting gait, which is a jerky back and forth kind of motion, reducing the chance of predators seeing them as they move.

The reason for this interesting and often entertaining way of moving is to protect themselves from predators.

These jerky type movements allow them to blend in better with their surroundings.

Their movements mimic the moving of leaves in a breeze, helping to hide the animals in the wild from predators who might look to make the chameleon its lunch.

With their green color and leaf-shaped torso, their movements add to this camouflage, making it difficult to spot them in the trees where they spend most of their lives in the wild.

Even though they are in captivity, and their enclosure does not allow for a breeze and isn’t full of trees and leaves, the animals are hardwired to walk this way.

Evolution taught them to walk as they do, and the relatively short time they have spent and been bred in captivity has not gotten rid of this.

How Fast Are Chameleons?

Aside from walking with an interesting gait, they move fairly slowly, mostly walking, taking it one step at a time, but on the rare occasion, they have been known to run.

If a chameleon is truly frightened, they will run for their protection, but even their run is slower than most other lizards.

Unlike other animals, chameleons rarely have to run to get their food, instead of using their long and sticky tongue to catch those insects they love to eat.

Their tongue will extend more than twice their body length, so these animals don’t have to move fast to eat.

They will move towards prey but do so very patiently and slowly, allowing their tongue to do most of the work of closing the distance.

When Are Chameleons Most Active?

Chameleons are diurnal, like humans, meaning they are mainly active during the day time.

At night, even in the wild, you will find these animals sleeping after a day of hunting and climbing.

In captivity, your chameleon will require approximately 10 to 12 hours of exposure to UV lamps, producing UVB rays to keep them at peak health.

At night these lights should be turned off to give the chameleon time to rest.

Your pet will be fine without a light or heat source at night, as they can handle the temperature drop as long as the enclosure stays above 40° degrees Fahrenheit (4° C).

In the morning, they will be ready to bask beneath their heat bulb to warm up.

If your enclosure drops below 40° degrees (4° C), install a heat source, but one which does not emit any light, so you don’t disrupt their day and night schedule.

Also, be sure to keep the heat source far enough away from your pet to prevent accidentally burning the animal.


Watching your chameleon walk throughout their enclosure is its own kind of entertainment.

Their funny looking walk is simply another layer of protection against predators; mimicking leaves moving in the breeze.

After reading this article, we hope you have a better understanding of the funny walk your chameleon has.

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