How Does a Chameleon Change Color? 🦎

Henry Belcaster
Henry Belcaster
3 min read

Morning Reptiles!

So, there's this misconception about Chameleons that they change color in order to blend into their environment.

This is actually totally wrong.

Turns out, when Chameleons are calm their bodies stay a greeny color.

But then:

When they get all excited, and all horned up, their colors start going crazy!

Changing from a green color to a yellowy orange red color.

But, how do they actually do that…?

In their skin, Chameleons have a bunch of different colored cells.

Some are yellow, others are red and some are dark.

Beneath the yellowy cells are these sacks containing TEENY TINY crystals that are about 8,000 times smaller than the width of a pinhead.

Pretty damn small.

Anyway, light bounces off these crystals, but they only reflect blue light.

Every other color gets absorbed.

So, the blue and yellow light (from the yellow cell) combine together which is why Chameleons are naturally green.

So, how do Chameleons change this green into yellow, orange and red?

Well, remember those little crystals?

When Chameleons get super horny it changes the distance between the crystals.

As these crystals get further and further apart, they begin reflecting different wavelengths of light.

Starting with really bunched up crystals It shifts from blue…

to green,

then yellow,

then orange,

and finally red, now with lots more spacing between the crystals.

Thus changing what light bounces off a Chameleon and into our eyes.

So it looks like they change colors!

Stay Cute,
Reece, Henry & Dylan 🌈

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