There are about 150 different species of chameleons; some of them are so small they fit in the tip of finger and some are as big as cat. Most of the chameleons spend their lives on the trees and hunt for insects with the help of their long sticky tongues.
Their way of hunting prey is very interesting. They normally creep very slowly towards their prey. Their green, brown or grey colors help them to blend in surroundings. They can move their both eyes almost independently of each other and they have amazing long range vision having almost 360 degree view. It helps them to keep them safe from predators. Once a prey is spotted, he rotates his both eyes to focus in same direction and properly judge the distance.
The tongue of a chameleon is very large and can be twice as long as its body. They open their mouth and tongue comes out forward and catches the prey in swift movement. The tongue is made up of powerful muscles. They have especially adopted toes and tails which allow them to grip firmly to the branches of the tree. Some species of chameleons can travel at speed of 22 kilometers in one hour.
Before the prey has a chance to react, the tip of the tongue comes in contact. The top surface of the tongue comes inwards, makes a suction cup to surround the prey and draws its tongue back into the mouth. There are strong acids in the stomach of the chameleon which help in the digestion of the prey.
Their diet consists of insects and other vertebrates. Some species of chameleons eat only one kind of insect while others eat small vertebrates, snails, eggs, spiders and even plant materials. Common chameleons are mainly fond of bees and crickets.
The chameleons depend on the environment to warm their bodies, hence they can’t regulate their own temperature. If their body temperature is too low, they warm up their bodies by seeking sun. If their body gets hot, they find shade to lighten their skin. Most of the species keep their bodies at optimum temperature of 23 to 28⁰C.
Most of the species of chameleons live in tropical or subtropical parts of the world where the temperature is warm throughout the year. However some of the species also live in seasonal climates. In cooler seasons, when temperature drops, they hibernate in burrows underground.