What Does It Mean When A Chameleon Curls Its Tail?

Most chameleons have long, round tails that make up half or more of their total body length. They use these tails for a number of different purposes. Have you ever seen a chameleon curl its tail? If so, perhaps you’re wondering, what does it mean when a chameleon curls its tail, and can all chameleons do it? Keep reading? In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions and more.

Why Do Chameleons Curl Their Tails?

Why Do Chameleons Curl Their Tails

Chameleons are highly expressive creatures. Just as they can use their color changing abilities to show changes in mood and to communicate with each other, they can use their tails to do the same thing.

Chameleons use their tails for a number of things, from practical uses to ways of communicating. If they are curling their tails, it can mean several different things, depending on the circumstances.

Chameleons may curl their tails to:

  • Show aggression: As you’ll see in the video at the end of this section, chameleons often curl their tails when fighting with rival chameleons and defending their territory against intruders. The tail curling acts as a warning for the rival to back off, and instances of aggression are the most common cause for a chameleon to curl its tail.
  • Show contentment: Alternatively, chameleons may curl their tails when they are at rest as a sign of deep contentment. Some chameleon owners have noted that their pet chameleon will curl its tail while asleep in their hands.
  • Hold things: Chameleons will curl their tails around tree branches and other objects to hold onto them. Occasionally, they may even carry small objects in their tightly-curled tails.
  • Balance: Though chameleons typically straighten their tails for better balance, there are times when they balance better by curling their tails. Curling the tail indicates the chameleon is tensing its body, which may allow it to fit through small openings more easily.
  • Make themselves look small: Sometimes chameleons may curl their tails in an effort to take up less space. They may do this if they are trying to hide from predators or fit into a small area.

Check out this video of chameleons battling over territory. You can see how their tails curl in a clear sign of aggression as they approach each other.

Can All Chameleons Curl Their Tails?

Nearly all of the 180 chameleon species in the world can curl their tails, but there is one notable exception.

The Brookesia chameleons of Madagascar cannot curl their tails. 

These chameleons, comprising 31 distinct species, are some of the smallest chameleons in the world–some are small enough to fit on the tip of your finger when fully grown. Their tails make up much of their overall body length, but the tails are straight and the chameleons are unable to curl them. 

What’s more, these tiny chameleons are unable to use their tails to grip objects, so it would seem that the only purpose their tails serve is to help them balance.

Can Chameleons Regrow Their Tails?

Chameleons have many different skills and abilities–they can change colors, catch insects with their lightning-quick tongues, and look in two directions at once. Considering these skills, and the fact that they use their tails for so many different functions, you may wonder what would happen if they were to lose their tails.

Can a chameleon regrow its tail if it has been cut off?

Many lizards have this ability to shed their tail to escape danger and then grow it back. But according to Scientific American, chameleons don’t have this ability–they are unable to regrow their tails or any other body parts they may lose. 

They are unique among lizards because they lack this ability.

The good news is, if a chameleon’s tail is cut off, it may struggle a bit with balance but should be able to go on living normally. The loss of its tail will not significantly affect the chameleon’s overall well-being.


Chameleons curl their tails for many reasons, such as to show aggression toward rivals, to indicate contentment and relaxation, and to help them balance and hold onto things. They may even curl their tails in an effort to appear smaller than they are.

Though chameleons use their tails for many things, they are unable to regrow their tails if they lose them. Despite this, chameleons without tails are still able to function well enough, especially if they are kept in captivity.

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