The Panther chameleon is a species of chameleon native to Madagascar. These colorful reptiles are very popular in the pet trade. Their coloration varies with location, and the different color patterns of these chameleons are commonly referred to as 'locales', which are named after the geographical location in which they are found. Panther chameleons can be vibrant blue, red, green or orange. Numerous other color phases and patterns occur between and within regions. Females generally remain tan and brown with hints of pink, peach, or bright orange, no matter where they are found, but there are slight differences in patterns and colors among the different color phases. Males in this species are larger and more vibrantly colored than the females.
Panther chameleons are found in the eastern and northern parts of Madagascar. They live in tropical forests and bushes.
Panther chameleons are solitary and very territorial. They spend the majority of their life in isolation, apart from the mating season. When two males come into contact, they will change color and inflate their bodies, attempting to assert their dominance. Often these battles end at this stage, with the loser retreating, turning drab and dark colors. Occasionally, the displays result in physical combat if neither contender backs down. Panther chameleons are most active during the day and spend their days foraging in the trees, searching for insects. Panther chameleons have very long tongues (sometimes longer than their own body length) which they are capable of rapidly extending out of the mouth. The tongue extends at around 26 body lengths per second and hits the prey in about 0.0030 sec. At the tip of this elastic tongue, a muscular, club-like structure covered in thick mucus forms a suction cup. Once the tip sticks to a prey item, it is drawn quickly back into the mouth, where the panther chameleon's strong jaws crush it and it is consumed.
Panther chameleons are polygynous meaning that one male mates with more than one female. Breeding varies with location but usually, it occurs between January and May. When carrying eggs, females turn dark brown or black with orange striping to signify to males they have no intention of mating. Females usually only live two to three years after laying eggs (between 5 and 8 clutches) because of the stress put on their bodies. Females can lay between 10 and 40 eggs per clutch, depending on the food and nutrient consumption during the period of development. Eggs typically buried in excavated burrows and hatch in 240 days. Hatchlings are independent at birth and weigh around 0.25 to 0.75 g. They reach reproductive maturity at a minimum age of seven months.
There are no major threats to Panther chameleons at present.
According to IUCN, the Panther chameleon is abundant and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. However, there are estimated 451,730 individuals of this species on the island of Nosy Be in northeastern Madagascar. Currently, Panther chameleons are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and their numbers today are stable.