Here’s What Happens When a Chameleon Looks in a Mirror

Here’s What Happens When a Chameleon Looks in a Mirror
June 20 18:45 2016 Print This Article

(National Geographic) – We at Weird Animal Question of the Week like to joke around a bit, but Derek Halas made us wonder if it’s time for some solemn reflection with his question, “What color would a chameleon in a room full of mirrors be?”

Chameleon colors aren’t just camouflage, says Eli Greenbaum, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Texas at El Paso—they also change due to temperature shifts or emotions.

And males get emotional when they see other males that could be rivals for females or habitat.

“Male chameleons will, in most cases, immediately change colors in response to seeing another male, and in this instance, to itself in a mirror,” says Daniel F. Hughes, a doctoral candidate in Greenbaum’s lab. (Related: “What Do Animals See in the Mirror?”).

To illustrate his point, he referred us to a YouTube video of a male panther chameleon, a species native to Madagascar, doing that very thing.

A male chameleon that sees a “rival” would get excited and change from its camo green to noticeable hues of yellow, orange, or even red, says Michel C. Milinkovitch, a biophysicist at the University of Geneva.

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