You just brought home your new chameleon, and you notice that it is laying on the bottom of its tank, black and motionless. Is it dead? Probably not. But what does it mean when a chameleon turns black? Why do chameleons change color, and what do other colors mean when a chameleon displays them? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions.
What You'll Learn Today
Can Chameleons Turn Black?
Yes, many species of chameleon can turn black.
Chameleons can turn many different colors, and each color has a different meaning. If you have a pet chameleon and it turns black, you may be afraid it is sick or dying, but this is not usually the case.
What Does it Mean When a Chameleon Turns Black?
If a chameleon turns black, it can be for one of a few different reasons.
The most likely cause of a chameleon turning black is that the lizard is cold.
Chameleons, like other reptiles, are cold-blooded, so they absorb the heat from their environment. If their environment is cold, then they will be cold too.
Chameleons may also turn black when they are stressed about something. In these cases, they may not turn completely black but instead will have black spots all over their body.
Sometimes chameleons will turn black when they’re scared as well. They can be scared of many things, from being in a new environment to feeling threatened by humans or other animals.
Consider the following scenario:
You just bought a new pet chameleon and brought it to your home. Either your house or the outdoor environment is cold, and both you and your home are brand new experiences for the chameleon.
In this case, the chameleon may be stressed, scared, and cold all at once. You may notice it turn black and drop to the bottom of its tank, and you may be tempted to think the stress and newness of the situation has killed the chameleon.
Make sure the chameleon has a warm spot to bask in the sunlight or in the light of a heat lamp, and give it time and space to acclimate to the new environment. Don’t hover over the chameleon, as this may cause it to feel a greater amount of fear and stress.
Check out the following video to see what a black chameleon looks like. You’ll notice at the beginning of the video, the chameleon isn’t moving much, which could also be a sign that it is cold or afraid.
Why Do Chameleons Change Colors?
Most people assume chameleons change color to camouflage with their surroundings, but this is only part of the story. In reality, chameleons change color for several reasons, including:
- Temperature regulation: The main reason chameleons change color is to absorb more or less heat from the environment. Chameleons that are cold turn black because black has the greatest potential to absorb the most heat.
A chameleon living in a hot environment would be more likely to turn a lighter shade of brown, gray, or yellow in order to better reflect the light and heat away from itself.
- Mood: Another major reason for a chameleon to change color is to express a change in mood. Those who are familiar with chameleons are often able to tell whether a chameleon is happy, stressed, angry, or afraid based on the colors it is displaying.
- Communication: Chameleons also change colors to communicate with other chameleons. They can use their color patterns to warn other chameleons to leave their territory, to express friendliness, or to challenge them.
- Mating rituals: Male chameleons use their colors to attract potential mates. The males who can turn the brightest colors tend to be most successful and are considered dominant.
Female chameleons use their color changing abilities to accept or reject potential mates, as well as to indicate pregnancy.
- Camouflage: Chameleons rarely use their colors to camouflage intentionally, unless they feel threatened and want to hide in plain sight. That said, they do appear to have an uncanny ability to change to the colors of their surroundings.
What Do Different Colors Mean?
If you know what moods or messages are associated with a chameleon’s colors, you may be able to figure it out when they’re trying to send you a message.
Let’s look at some common reasons behind some of the most common chameleon colors:
- Red: Chameleons tend to produce vibrant shades of red and pink when attempting to attract a mate. They are able to produce this color by tensing their skin, allowing the skin cells to spread out and become stretched.
- Blue: Blue is another color produced when a male chameleon is trying to attract a mate, but it is produced in an opposite way that red is produced. The chameleon will relax its skin, allowing the cells to move closer together.
- White: Chameleons shed their skin when they grow too large for it. They usually shed it in bits and pieces, and they can appear a mottled white color when they are doing this.
- Yellow: Yellow markings or patterns can be a sign of excitement or aggression. If your chameleon is showing a yellow color, then it is likely experiencing a strong emotion of some kind, ranging from agitation to extreme happiness.
- Orange: Orange colors can also indicate aggression or excitement. That said, if you notice the chameleon’s eyes are turning orange, this is a sign that the lizard is dehydrated and may need medical attention.
- Green: Green is a common color for chameleons to display, and it can mean a number of different things. Bright green patterns or markings can indicate excitement and may be used to attract a mate, while more muted green shades typically mean the chameleon is content and at rest.
- Brown: If a female chameleon turns brown, she may be rejecting a potential mate or preparing to lay eggs. Chameleons may also turn brown if they are sick or brumating (hibernating), attempting to camouflage, or simply not displaying any other colors.
A chameleon may turn black if it is cold, stressed, or afraid. Chameleons use their color changing abilities to regulate their body temperature as well as communicate with each other, and they can produce a variety of colors based on their moods and the messages they are trying to get across.