Added 2 July 2006.

A look at the Family Chameleonidae



The genus Chamaeleo covers many of the large chameleons, including the European and Indian species, although most of the species are found in East Africa.

Spawls, Howells, Drewe and Ashe give the following characteristics of the genus: prehensile tails; narrow compressed parietal bone; lungs with diverticula (blind passages).

Current taxonomy divides Chamaeleo into two subgenera, Chamaeleo and Trioceros. The entries in the tables below with a [T.] in the species name signify that the species is part of the subgenus Trioceros: otherwise it is a member of the subgenus Chamaeleo.

As at the time of first posting this page, this is more in the way of a simple listing than a full guide to some or all of the species. However we will be adding to it over time. For further details, readers are encouraged to check out the books in the Bibliography.

C. affinis, Ruppell's Desert Chameleon C. africanus, African Chameleon C. anchietae, Angola Chameleon
C. arabicus, Arabian Chameleon C. [T.] balebicornutus C. bitaeniatus, Side-Striped Chameleon
C. calaricarens C. calyptratus, Veiled Chameleon C. [T.] camerunensis
C. chamaeleon, Common or European Chameleon C. chapini, Grey Chameleon C. [T.] conirostratus
C. cristatus, Crested Chameleon C. deremensis, Usambara Three-Horned Chameleon C. dilepis, Flap-Necked Chameleon
C. [T.] eisentrauti C. [T.] ellioti, Montane Side-Striped Chameleon C. etiennei
C. [T.] feae C. [T.] fuelleborni, Poroto Three-Horned Chameleon C. [T.] goetzei, Goetze's Chameleon
C. gracilis, Graceful or Slender Chameleon C. [T.] harennae C. [T.] hoehnelii, Von Höhnel's Chameleon
C. [T.] incornutus, Ukinga Hornless Chameleon C. ituriensis, Ituri Forest Chameleon C. [T.] jacksonii, Jackson's Chameleon 
C. johnstoni, Johnston's Chameleon  C. kinetensis C. laevigatus, Smooth Chameleon
C. [T.] laterispinis, Spiny-Flanked Chameleon  C. [T.] marsabitensis, Mount Marsabit or Tilbury's Chameleon  C. [T.] melleri, Meller's Chameleon 
C. monachus, Monarch Chameleon  C. [T.] montium, Cameroon Mountain Chameleon  C. namaquensis, Namaqua Chameleon 
C. [T.] narraioca, Mount Kulal Chameleon C. [T.] oweni, Owen's Chameleon C. [T.] pfefferi, Pfeffer's Chameleon
C. [T.] quadricornis, Four-Horned Chameleon C. quilensis, Bocage's Chameleon C. roperi
C. [T.] rudis, Ruwenzori Side-Striped Chameleon C. ruspolii C. [T.] schoutedeni
C. [T.] schubotzi, Mt Kenya Side-Striped Chameleon C. senegalensis, Senegal Chameleon C. [T.] sternfeldi
C. [T.] tempeli, Tubercle-Nosed Chameleon C. [T.] tremperi, Eldama Ravine Chameleon C. [T.] werneri, Werner's Three-Horned Chameleon
C. [T.] wiedersheimi, Mount Lefo Chameleon C. zeylanicus  

Scientific Name Common Name Distribution Size Notes
C. affinus Ruppell's Desert Chameleon Ethiopia    
C. africanus African Chameleon Greece, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Gabon    
C. anchietae Angola Chameleon Angola, S Democratic Republic of the Congo    
C. a. anchietae    
C. a. maranguensis    
C. a. mertensi    
C. a. vinckei    
C. arabicus Arabian Chameleon Oman, Yemen    
C. [T.] balebicornutus   Ethiopia    
C. bitaeniatus Side-Striped Chameleon S Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, NE Democratic Republic of the Congo    
C. calaricarens   Ethiopia, Eritrea, N Somalia, Djibouti    
C. calyptratus Veiled Chameleon Yemen, Saudi Arabia    
C. c. calyptratus Yemen    
C. c. calcarifer SW Saudi Arabia, poss. Yemen    
C. [T.] camerunensis   Cameroon   Lowland species.
C. chamaeleon Common or European Chameleon S Portugal, S Spain, Malta, Greece (Crete, Samos, Chios), Turkey, Cyprus, Morocco, W Sahara, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, SW Saudi Arabia, Yemen    
C. c. chamaeleon  
C. c. musae  
C. c. orientalis  
C. c. recticrista  
C. chapini Grey Chameleon Gabon, C Democratic Republic of the Congo    
C. [T.] conirostratus   S Sudan    
C. cristatus Crested Chameleon  Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Nigeria    
C. deremensis Usambara Three-Horned Chameleon Tanzania   Known only from the Nguru and Usambara Mountains.
C. dilepis Flap-Necked Chameleon Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania (Pemba Island), Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, E Congo, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Nigeria, Equatorial Guineau, Gabon, Angola, Burundi, Botswana, Malawi Mozambique, Zambia, Namibia, Swaziland, Republic of South Africa    
C. d. dilepis      
C. d. idjwiensis      
C. d. isabellinus      
C. d. martensi Tanzania (Pemba Island)    
C. d. petersii      
C. [T.] eisentrauti   Cameroon   Found in the Rumpi Mtns.
C. [T.] ellioti Montane Side-Striped Chameleon S Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, NE Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi    
C. etiennei   Angola, Congo, Gabon, Democratic Republic of the Congo   Formerly a subspecies of C. gracilis.
C. [T.] feae   Equatorial Guinea    
C. [T.] fuelleborni Poroto (Mountain) Three-Horned Chameleon Tanzania    
C. [T.] goetzei Goetze's Chameleon Tanzania, Malawi    
C. [T.] g. goetzei
C. [T.] g. nyikae
C. gracilis Graceful or Slender Chameleon Southern and eastern Africa 9-13" dorsal and ventral crest of enlarged granules, whitish on belly: homogeneous: casque, feebly raised posteriorly, without parietal crest: faintly indicated immobile occipital lobes [Laurent]
C. [T.] harennae   Ethiopia    
C. [T.] h. harennae
C. [T.] h. fitchi
C. [T.] hoehnelii Von Höhnel's Chameleon Kenya, Uganda    
C. [T.] h. hoehnelii      
C. [T.] h. altaeelgonis      
C. [T.] incornutus Ukinga Hornless Chameleon Tanzania    
C. [T.] ituriensis Ituri Forest Chameleon      
C. [T.] jacksonii Jackson's Chameleon Kenya, Tanzania   SHDA also refer to this as the Kikuyu Three-Horned Chameleon. These are popular subjects as vivarium captives among keepers, and for chameleons quite long-lived: Bartlett claims a decade of longevity if properly cared for. Reproduction: ovoviparous. 
C. [T.] j. jacksonii Kenya, Tanzania (except where replaced by other subspecies) TL (m) 10"/25cm  
C. [T.] j. merumontanus Meru Mountains Jackson's Chameleon Tanzania (Arusha District of Meru Mountains)    
C. [T.] j. xantholophus Mt Kenyan Jackson's Chameleon Kenya (southern slopes of Mt Kenya); USA (introduced into Hawaii and Florida) Max TL 13"/33cm Breeding colonies of this species became established in Hawaii from 1972. Bartlett also states that a "fair-sized" breeding colony became established in Hillsborough County, Florida, from the mid-sixties to early seventies.
C. [T.] johnstoni Johnston's Chameleon Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, NE Democratic Republic of the Congo    SHDA also refer to this as the Ruwenzori Three-Horned Chameleon. 
C. [T.] kinetensis   Sudan    Found in the Imatong Mountains. 
C. [T.] laevigatus Smooth Chameleon Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Zambia     
C. [T.] laterispinis Spiny-Flanked Chameleon Tanzania     
C. [T.] marsabitensis Mount Marsabit or Tilbury's Chameleon Kenya     
C. [T.] melleri Meller's Chameleon Tanzania, Malawi, N Mozambique    SHDA also refer to this as the Giant One-Horned Chameleon. 
C. monachus Monarch Chameleon  Yemen (Socotra Island)     
C. [T.] montium Cameroon Mountain Chameleon Cameroon     
C. namaquensis Namaqua Chameleon Republic of South Africa, Namibia, S Angola  SVL 12-14cm, max 14½/16cm (m/f)  
C. [T.] narraioca Mount Kulal Chameleon Kenya    Only described in 2003. 
C. [T.] oweni Owen's Chameleon Nigeria, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea (Bioko), Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Angola     
C. [T.] pfefferi Pfeffer's Chameleon  Cameroon     
C. [T.] quadricornis Four-Horned Chameleon Cameroon, Nigeria     
C. [T.] q. quadricornis    
C. [T.] q. gracilior    
C. quilensis Bocage's Chameleon Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Togo, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Republic of South Africa    Considered by some authorities to be a synonym or subspecies of C. dilepis. Not listed by SHDA. 
C. roperi   E Kenya, Uganda, NE Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Angola    At times considered a subspecies of C. dilepis
C. [T.] rudis Ruwenzori Side-Striped Chameleon Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo     
C. ruspolii   Ethiopia, Somalia    Until recently considered a subspecies of C. dilepis
C. [T.] schoutedeni   Rwanda, E Democratic Republic of the Congo    Formerly considered a subspecies of C. rudis
C. [T.] schubotzi Mt Kenya Side-Striped Chameleon Kenya     
C. senegalensis Senegal Chameleon Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau, Guineau, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, Mali, Gambia, Senegal    
C. [T.] sternfeldi   Tanzania     
C. [T.] tempeli Tubercle-Nosed/Double-Bearded Chameleon Tanzania     
C. [T.] tremperi Eldama Ravine Chameleon Kenya    
C. [T.] werneri Werner's Three-Horned Chameleon Tanzania     
C. [T.] wiedersheimi Mount Lefo Chameleon  Cameroon, Nigeria     
C. [T.] w. wiedersheimi
C. [T.] w. perretti
C. zeylanicus   Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka     


Chameleons: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual, R D and Patricia Bartlett, Barron's, 1995. A very useful introduction to many species of chameleon, including the best and most popular candidates for captivity (not necessarily the same thing!).

Lizards of the World: A Checklist. 5: Agamidae, Chamaeleonidae, Cordylidae and Gerrhosauridae, K R G Welch, KCM Books, Somerset, England, 1994.

A Field Guide to the Reptiles of East Africa, Stephen Spawls, Kim Howell, Robert Drewes and James Ashe, Academic Press, 2002. Excellent field guide to the reptiles of the region.

Amphibians and Reptiles of North Africa, W Kästle, H H Schleich and K Kabisch, Koeltz Scientific Books, Germany 1996. Outstanding review of N African herpetofauna giving detailed account of each species.

Field Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa, Bill Branch, Struik, Cape Town 1998.


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