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How Many Species Of Chameleons Are There

Have you heard of a few species of chameleons, but want to learn about some of the more exotic types?

Are you interested in knowing how many different species of chameleons there are in the world?

If you are trying to learn all about chameleons and what to learn to differentiate between species, you’re bound to ask the question:

How many species of chameleons are there?

There are currently thought to be over 180 different species of chameleons varying in size, color, and appearance known to researchers, with some additional varieties still waiting to be named.

Continue reading for more information on the various species of chameleons.

how many species of chameleons are there

How Many Chameleon Species Have Been Identified?

The name chameleon means earth lion, coming from the Greek words “chamai,” which means earth or land, and “leon” meaning lion.

Currently, over 180 different species of these earth lions have been identified throughout the world, and there are still some waiting to be named.

Researchers classify animals, as well as plants, into a species when the population can breed to produce new offspring, and the offspring in turn goes and produces their offspring.

If the offspring of the original pair cannot produce its offspring, they cannot be considered a new species.

An example of this would be a mule, which is the sterile young of a horse and a donkey.

Through natural selection, new species can and do evolve from existing ones, meaning this field is ever-evolving

The number of species is likely to change in the future as research continues and new species could be discovered.

These primary tree-dwelling lizards will vary in size, color, and appearance depending on the species, and these characteristics help differentiate these animals.

Researchers group similar species of chameleons into a genus (plural: genera).

There is some debate among researchers regarding the number of genera.

Researchers have classified four genera of true chameleons, including Bradypodian, Chamaeleo, Rhampholean, and Brookesia.

There are two more genera, Calumma and Furcifer, but only some researchers recognize these additional genera.

These animals are separated into different species based on several characteristics, including size, head ornamentation, and coloration.

As an example, all members of the genus Bradypodian are all dwarf chameleons.

Evolution Of Chameleons

Understanding the evolution of chameleons begins by going back to the early fossils to help tell the story.

For chameleons, some of the earliest fossils have been found in what is now modern-day China dating back to the Tertiary and late Cretaceous periods.

The oldest fossil found is of an infant cousin of the chameleon encased in amber from 100 million years ago in Myanmar.

There are still gaps in the history of chameleons, as the 100 million-year-old fossil changed the timeline researchers originally had for this animal.

Fossils have been found in Europe, Asia, and Africa, giving way to the belief which says these animals were much more widespread than they currently are.

Today, chameleons in the wild mostly live in Africa, primarily Madagascar, and some forests and deserts in Asia.

As the planet evolved, these animals developed adapted their coloring as protection and change color for communication.

Insect populations began to grow, and with little competition, chameleons’ tongues began to grow to catch those insects.

It is believed chameleons and geckos have a common ancestor, but over time both developed different characteristics.

Wild Chameleon Issues

In the wild, there are some threats to chameleons, which have the potential to wipe out an entire species.

Destruction of habitat is the most common threat to certain species of chameleons.

These animals spend most of their lives in the trees, and deforestation takes away their home and the ability to hide from predators.

Chameleons are also being taken from their homes and sold for people to own as pets.

With the stress of being taken from the wild, those chameleons do not live long after their capture.

When you look at purchasing the animal bred in captivity.

Animals bred in captivity will be healthier because they are less likely to have developed a parasite in the wild, and they won’t face the same stress as one taken from the wild.

Which Species Are Best As Pets?

Of all those species of chameleons, there are only a few available in your pet stores or from specialty breeders.

Most species are only found in the wild, and with some, it is illegal to export them from their native countries.

This is because not all chameleons will make great pets for you to own.

Because they need a very specialized environment which is nearly impossible to recreate and then maintain in your home.

Other chameleons do not have the right disposition to be kept as pets, with some getting aggressive.

While there are so many species of chameleons, only some are known to do well as pets.

These species are only semi-domesticated and haven’t been bred in captivity for very long.

With proper care and handling, they are great as pets, but they do require a great deal of attention, making them a commitment.

Here we have compiled a list of the chameleons most commonly kept as pets:

  • Carpet Chameleon
  • Fischer’s Chameleon
  • Flap-Necked Chameleon
  • Four-Horned Chameleon
  • Jackson’s Chameleon
  • Meller’s Chameleon
  • Panther Chameleon
  • Veiled Chameleon

It is important to do proper researched about commonly kept chameleons before you decide which will be the best choice for you.

Different chameleons will require specific care requirements for them to thrive in your home.

This research will allow you to understand what it takes to keep a chameleon happy and healthy before you bring one home.


Whether you are looking for the best species of chameleon for you to own or are just looking to learn more about these animals, it is interesting to see just how many species have been identified.

There are over 160 species of chameleons identified throughout the world, and there are still more to be identified and named.

After reading this article, we hope you are more aware of a large number of species of chameleons.

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