Chameleons, like many other reptiles, usually lay eggs, though some of them give birth to live young instead. Perhaps you’re curious about a chameleon’s reproductive activities–specifically, what are its nesting habits? How many eggs does a chameleon lay? What do its eggs look like? And how do you distinguish between male and female chameleons? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions.
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Chameleon Nesting Habits
Before discussing how many eggs chameleons typically lay, we should first talk about their nesting habits. Producing offspring begins, of course, with a chameleon finding a mate.
According to the San Diego Zoo, male chameleons use their bright colors and color changing abilities to attract mates. The most brightly colored males tend to be more dominant and attract the most mates; males with more muted colors tend to be submissive and don’t attract as many mates.
Female chameleons are not typically as brightly colored as male chameleons, but they have the same color changing abilities. They use their colors to show acceptance or rejection of potential mates as well as to sometimes indicate pregnancy.
When a female is ready to lay her eggs, she will dig a hole in the ground. She will then lay the eggs in the hole, cover it with dirt, and leave the eggs to incubate and hatch on their own.
Females may lay two to three batches of eggs throughout the year, depositing each batch in a different location. The eggs will absorb water and nutrients from the ground, eventually hatching several weeks to several months after being laid.
Adult chameleons don’t raise their young. The babies are born with all the skills and instincts they need to survive on their own.
Some chameleons don’t lay eggs at all but instead give birth to live young. Even in these cases, the adult chameleons do not raise their babies; the babies are independent and survive on their own from the time of their birth.
What Do Chameleon Eggs Look Like?
Chameleon eggs vary somewhat in appearance depending on the species. They tend to be perfectly oval in shape.
In most cases chameleon eggs are white or beige in color and speckled. Some may be darker, while others may be lighter in color; still others may be more yellow, while some may be pure white.
Some chameleon eggs may have more speckles and dark splotches than others. Depending on species, they vary in size as well.
Usually, chameleon eggs are penny to quarter size; larger species have larger eggs, while smaller species have smaller eggs. The smallest chameleons in the world, the Brookesia chameleons of Madagascar, lay eggs that are less than 6 millimeters long–nearly as small as a pinhead.
How Many Babies Can a Chameleon Have?
Chameleons lay different numbers of eggs depending on individual species as well as the age and size of the mother.
Generally speaking, larger chameleons lay more eggs, while smaller chameleons lay fewer eggs. As noted above, some chameleons don’t lay eggs at all but give birth to live babies.
Let’s look at some specific chameleon species and the average number of eggs (or babies) they produce per clutch:
- Veiled chameleon: Veiled chameleons are known for laying lots of eggs. They may lay as few as 20 and as many as 200 at one time. The average is about 20 to 80 eggs per clutch.
- Panther chameleon: Panther chameleons typically lay fewer eggs than veiled chameleons–anywhere between 10 and 40 per clutch.
- Pygmy leaf chameleon: Pygmy leaf chameleons are very small and, as a result, do not lay as many eggs as the veiled or panther chameleons. Most often, they will lay just 1 to 2 eggs per clutch.
- Jackson’s chameleon: Jackson’s chameleons have live babies. Depending on the size and age of the mother, they may have as few as 8 or as many as 50 babies at once–the average is about 20 per clutch.
How to Tell if a Chameleon is Male or Female?
If you have pet chameleons and you’re not sure of their sex, there are several ways you can tell simply by observing them over time. Some of the signs you can look for include:
- Eggs: Female chameleons will lay eggs whether they are fertilized or not. If you have just one chameleon and you want to know its sex, it may be as simple as checking its tank from time to time to see if it has laid any eggs.
- Hemipenes: Hemipenes is the term used for a reproductive organ found on a male chameleon’s underside at the base of its tail–it looks like a small bump. The same region on a female chameleon will be smooth.
- Color brightness: As noted above, male chameleons are typically much more brightly colored than females. That said, it can be difficult to determine a chameleon’s sex based on its coloring unless you have another chameleon of the same species to compare it against.
- Size: Among most chameleon species, the females are smaller than males. There are some exceptions, such as Brookesia and flap neck chameleons–with both of these species, the females are typically larger than the males.
Again, it can be hard to tell about your chameleon’s gender based on size unless you have another chameleon of the same species and can compare them against each other.
- Other physical distinctions: Some chameleons may have species-specific clues to help you figure out whether your lizard is male or female. For example, with some chameleon species, the males may have horns or bumps on their legs that set them apart from females.
Try to learn about the specific markings and distinctions of your specific type of chameleon–this will help you in your efforts to determine your chameleon’s sex.
There are many different species of chameleon. Some of them lay only 1 or 2 eggs per clutch, while others may lay up to 200.