Amongst the fauna species which have become part of the reptiles of Malta, is the Mediterranean Chameleon (Kamalejonte, Chamaeleo chamaeleon) which is actually not a native species on the Islands. Itwas introduced in the Maltese Islands in the middle of the 19th century when specimens were brought over from North Africa. After being released in a private garden in St. Julians, this species spread throughout almost all of the Maltese Islands, including Gozo and Comino.
Similar to other reptiles, the chameleon’s whole body is covered in scales. As arboreal species, usually, chameleons are generally found in shrubs or trees. It can also be encountered in garrigue habitats, such as those of Dingli Cliffs. Between April and November, the female climbs downs towards the base of the trunk, lays and buries between 12-22 eggs in a hole. The young hatch just in four to five months’ time. In Malta, the adult chameleon can grow up to 30cm in length, including its tail. When feeling threatened, it puffs up its body with air and opens its wide mouth, giving the appearance that it is larger in size. It feeds on numerous insects, including spiders, wasps, flies, moths and butterflies.
This species has numerous ways by which it adapts. It is laterally compressed to help it hide behind branches. The feet and tail have also adapted to living amongst trees – with two opposing groups of toes and a tail which coils around branches, greater grip to branches is ensured. It can view up to a 360° angle without even turning its head. Although the chameleon’s normal colour is greenish or brownish to blend into its habitat, it is able to change colour but not for camouflage. The colour change is a response of the chameleon to temperature, light, reproductive status and even to express its emotions and mood. Prey are caught by shooting its extendable long sticky tongue (which is twice the size of its body length) towards its prey, all in less than 1/16th of a second, faster than the blink of an eye!!