Animal: Veiled Chameleon
Research Location: Desert between Yemen and Saudi Arabia

Why this Animal?

I chose the veiled chameleon because it seems like a very interesting animal. As a kid you are told many stories of why chemeleons change colors. It's hard to tell which story is really true. I want to learn how and why chameleons change their skin color. When you see more than one, they are often totally different colors. This makes them unique and exciting to see.


Research Location:

My research location is the desert around the border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The plants here in the desert are spread out. Because there is very little water in the desert, cacti and succulents hold water in their leaves to survive. These are seen very often here. Drought resistant shrubs are also very common here. Some plants have seeds that lay in the ground until rain comes in order to grow. There are many different reptiles that are found in this desert. Most of these reptiles are very unique. These animals are very interesting and have many different ways to protect themselves. Some, like the veiled chameleon, have the ability to change their colors. The frilled lizard unveils a large frill in order to look bigger when enemies are near. Most of the animals are nocturnal because it is cooler at night. You don’t see many animals during the day because they burrow into the ground where it is cooler. Most animals are also carnivorous because there aren’t any plants to feed off of. In this area, some animals you may see are jackals, gazelles, chameleons, and wild cats. The summer days here are very hot. There are no clouds to block the sun’s rays. It rarely rains. When it does rain, the rain is followed by a long, dry period. Deserts commonly get less than 15 centimeters of rain per year. The average daytime temperature is over 65 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. During the night the temperature lowers to 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit. The terrain consists of course sand. The finer sand blows away to leave heavier pieces behind.
The Veiled Chameleon and all other desert animals have unique characteristics to be able to thrive in the harsh environment. The Veiled Chameleon has a long, sticky tongue to catch insects that are not very close to it. They also have the ability to move each eye independently to see their prey without moving their heads. These lizards are used to the climate and can thrive in very hot weather. Plants are used as a water source in especially dry periods. Plants are also used as shelter for many animals to escape the burning sun. This whole desert area is an interesting place. There are surprises everywhere you look.


Wildlife Research Technique:

I found a spot not far from the camp, that I sight veiled chameleons almost every day. I wasn’t sure whether there were different chameleons that came here every day or if each one was a new chameleon. I decided to use the tag and release method of monitoring animals. I had brought along some tags just in case I wanted to use them.

Day 1-
8:00 am: Today I tagged one male chameleon. For the next week, I will return to this spot twice a day to determine if each chameleon is different. I hope to understand more about chameleon behavior, specifically male chameleons.

8:00 pm: When I came back, the same chameleon was there.

Day 2-
8:15 am: When I visited the site, at first, there was no chameleon in sight. After a short period of time though, a chameleon emerged out of the bush. I looked at it and saw the tag that I had put on it yesterday. The same chameleon was still there.

7:45 pm: As I approach the site, I can’t see any chameleons. As I get closer though, I can see that there is a chameleon there. It is still the same one that I tagged. I think veiled chameleons are territorial animals, but I am going to keep monitoring these animals to find out.

Day 3-
8:00 am: This morning, as I approached the site of observation, there were no chameleons in sight. As I waited, none appeared. For the first time, there hasn’t been any chameleons.

8:10 pm: The chameleon was back again. I am not finding very much information by coming every morning and night. I am going to set up a video camera to monitor this site further. What I really want to know now is if male veiled chameleons are territorial. I want to know if they will fight in order to guard their territory. Tomorrow I will set up the camera.

My video camera could be set to motion sensor. After it sensed motion, it taped for 5 minutes. If there was motion sensed after the five minutes, it would just keep taping. I watched the video I captured. There was a lot of video that was just other animals walking through the desert. One video showed me that male veiled chameleons are territorial and guard their territory from other male chameleons. In that video, another male veiled chameleon approached the territory of the tagged chameleon. The tagged chameleon became protective of his territory, and brightened his colors. This shows that male veiled chameleons are territorial animals. Male veiled chameleons don't tolerate each other. They don't even tolerate female veiled chameleons with the exception of mating season.

Observation Journal
Day 1: As soon as I stepped off of the plane, the heat hit me like a wave and I found what the environment is going to be like for the rest of my trip. Hopefully, one of these days it will rain. As I trudged through the desert sand, not yet used to the heat, I saw my first veiled chameleon out of the corner of my eye. It was sitting in a small bush, clinging to a branch. The veiled chameleon has amazing feet. They are made to cling to branches because these chameleons are arboreal, meaning they prefer to live high in trees or low in bushes. Each foot has five toes to wrap around the branches. These feet are one of the physical adaptations of the veiled chameleon. As I stopped to look, a locust went by. The chameleon stayed in place, and snapped out its tongue. The locust stuck to the tongue and the chameleon had a snack. The tongue is another one of the chameleons adaptations. The tongue is sticky and will stick easily to the food. Veiled Chameleons move slowly, so the tongue allows them to catch speedy insects. I slowly move so I can have a better view of the chameleon. The chameleon turned its head and looked at me so I stopped dead in my tracks. I didn’t want it to run away. As it looked at me, I saw both of it’s eyes. Amazingly, they were both moving independently. One eye was watching me, while the other was watching the surrounding area. This adaptation allows the chameleon to have a 360 degree view on its environment. Another amazing characteristic of the chameleon is the tail. The tail is strong. This helps to keep the chameleon balanced on branches. It works along with the feet to grasp branches. The jaws of chameleons are very strong. Small chameleons are able to eat large insects because of their powerful jaws. The body is leaf shaped. This allows the chameleon to blend in with its environment. Because I arrived in late afternoon, I wasn’t able to watch this chameleon very long, but I look forward to tomorrow. I hope I will be able to find more chameleons to observe so I can learn as much as possible in my short stay.

Day 2: I was awoken by the heat this morning. Today the temperature is well above 90 degrees. I remembered my first sighting of the chameleon from yesterday, and rushed to get ready and eat so I could see more wildlife in this new environment. As soon as I stepped outside I remembered how brutal the weather is. I braced myself for the long, humid day ahead of me.

I started by taking a long walk so that I was well away from the noise of the camp. I passed by many plants on this long walk. There were cacti and small bushes. I also saw some lizards and snakes, but none of them were the chameleons I was looking for. Soon, I came to a bush and saw a locust. As the locust hopped by the bush, a tongue snapped out and caught the locust. I looked closer, and clinging from a branch on the bush was a veiled chameleon. I moved a little bit closer. I then realized that I had moved too close because all of a sudden, the chameleon’s color darkened ever so slightly. It then looked like it was imitating a possum by becoming completely still in order to look dead. This is what the chameleons do when they feel threatened. I backed up a little so that the chameleon wouldn’t be afraid. After a little while, the chameleon started to move slowly on the branch again. As it walked, from the top it looked similar to a leaf. It was colored and shaped like a leaf. When it walked, it swayed slightly from side to side. This made it look like a leaf blowing in the breeze. After some time, I moved to a different area to watch more chameleons. Each chameleon I saw looked slightly different. They were all colored differently. Some were brighter than others. Some were darker than others. A monitor lizard had just left when I saw a chameleon in the bush that it had been at. It must have changed its color because it felt threatened. Veiled chameleons change color to reflect their mood. One of the brighter ones had just seen me. It must have changed its color because it felt frightened.

Throughout the day, I saw some more chameleons, and I saw some of the same behaviors and characteristics among them. Hopefully tomorrow I will be able to sight some more and learn even more about how these amazing creatures survive in such a harsh environment.

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Day 4: Yesterday, I wasn’t able to sight any chameleon besides the one that I tagged. Today, I watched one chameleon. I wanted to see how the chameleons meet their basic needs throughout the day.

When I first spotted the chameleon, he was sitting in a bush. I watched in hiding to see what it would do. As insects moved by, the chameleons would flick out its tongue to catch them. This is how the chameleons gets its food. Later, he nibbled on a leaf from the bush he was in. This is how they get water. They are one of the only kinds of chameleons that eat plant matter. It gets its shelter from plants, usually trees or bushes. Using plants as shelter help to keep the chameleons safe because they keep the chameleons hidden and camouflaged. This is how the chameleons gets its basic needs throughout the day.

Day 5: I have learned more about veiled chameleon relationships. One of its relationships is commensalism. The veiled chameleon uses vegetation for shelter. This doesn’t hurt the plants. The chameleon benefits while the plant isn’t harmed. This is an example of commensalism.

Day 6: So far on this trip, I have learned so much about veiled chameleons. Today, when I sat outside and watched for chameleons, I didn’t see any. I watched all day, and I didn’t see any. I was sad, but I’m still excited for tomorrow.

Day 7: Today is my last full day in Yemen. I am very sad that I will be leaving tomorrow, but I will make the best of it. I walk through the area and take a long look at the scenery. I see all the different animals, the plants, and the rocks. I see everything that I have embraced for the last week. I see the true beauty in it all.

I go to the place where I taped the tagged chameleon. He is there once again. He is eating insects, eating the plant, and staying safe hidden in the bush. I say goodbye to him, and head off to see more veiled chameleons.

I see a few more chameleons. They all look different and I love seeing each of them. When I get home, I hope to study veiled chameleons in captivity. As the day ends, I sit outside and watch the sunset. The scene is breathtaking. I will miss this forever.

Day 8: I woke up early to see the sunrise as I pack to go back home. I am sad, but also excited to see the sights of my everyday life again. I plan to share my findings with people back home.

I take one last look at Yemen as I board the plane to go back home. It is the end of my trip, but only the beginning of my research of the veiled chameleons.

Veiled Chameleon Food Web:IMG_2131[2].jpg

Using the Research:

Fellow Researcher Profile:
Christopher V. Anderson is a very interesting researcher. When he graduated from high school, he had actually spent about half of his life living overseas. He had visited 36 different countries at that point. Growing up, he found a love for travel and nature. When he was 13, he got his first chameleon and immediately fell in love with chameleons. What impresses me about his first chameleon is that when his parents told him he couldn’t get one at first, he kept trying to get them to change their minds. When they told him he needed to research it first, he read books and contacted chameleon experts whenever he could. This first chameleon was actually a veiled chameleon. He ended up getting another veiled chameleon not long after his first. Unfortunately, this chameleon was sick, but he took care of it. This shows me how much he truly cared for these creatures. Ever since then, he has gone on numerous trips to study the chameleons in their natural habitats. He has also worked with about 60 different kinds of chameleons in captivity and in the wild.

One of his biggest research projects was about the theories behind the chameleons’ ability to change colors. This is one of the major things that makes the chameleons stand out from other species of animals. This is also one thing that really interests me in the veiled chameleon. He has also researched the chameleons’ tongue. Their tongues are amazing. I think these also make veiled chameleons very interesting animals. He has done many more studies on chameleons, each one making me further interested in chameleons.

His research didn’t stop at the chameleon though. He has gone on several trips which involved spending time with other creatures such as iguanas, orangutans, and pythons. He has traveled to many places around the world to research animals. His favorite animals to research are reptiles. He has always had an interest in them, and has seen many of them in their natural habitats.

One of his trips that sticks out to him was a trip to Madagascar. The environment there was really exciting. All of the different animals excited him. There was also a large population of chameleons, which are his favorite animals to study. Both of his favorite kinds of chameleons lived there and that interested him. He had been able to work with them in captivity, and was extremely happy to see them in their natural habitat. This makes me want to do the same and learn more about different animals. I hope someday I can follow in his path and research animals in the wild whether they are chameleons or not!

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