TRICK QUESTION. You’ve already lost.

In all seriousness, this National Geographic short on the chameleon and its remarkable physiology is as gorgeous as it is fascinating. Some really excellent footage here, and a great complement to Patricia Edmunds’ chameleon feature in this month’s print issue:

Of all its corporeal quirks, the chameleon is most defined by one, noted as far back as Aristotle: color-changing skin. It’s a popular myth that chameleons take on the color of what they touch. Though some color changes do help them blend into their surroundings, the skin’s changing hue is in fact a physiological reaction that’s mostly for communication. It’s the lizard using colorful language, expressing itself about things that affect it: courtship, competition, environmental stress.

At least that’s the belief today. “Even though chameleons have attracted attention for centuries, there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding them,” says Christopher Anderson, a biology postdoctoral associate at Brown University and a chameleon expert. “We’re still piecing together how their mechanisms actually work,” from the explosive projection of the tongue to the physics of the varying skin colors.

Advertisement

Read the rest at National Geographic.


Contact the author at rtgonzalez@io9.com.

Advertisement