12 Showstopping Chameleon Species

Three-horned chameleon, also known as Jackson's chameleon
(Photo: mikeledray/Shutterstock)

Chameleons are certainly among the most photogenic reptiles — and not just because they've mastered the "bored model" look. With somewhere around 160 species, these eccentric lizards come in a range of shapes, sizes and, of course, colors. Chameleons can thrive anywhere from the desert to the rain forest, and many of them are endemic to Madagascar. Browse through of some of the weirdest-looking species across the globe.

One of the strangest of all is Jackson's three-horned chameleon, pictured above, which ranges throughout East Africa.

* * *

Namaqua chameleon displaying threatening behaviors
(Photo: Yathin S Krishnappa/Wikimedia Commons)

Contrary to popular belief, chameleons don't change their colors to blend into their surroundings. They've adapted to their environments so that their natural coloration helps to camouflage them. They change color according to their mood, like the defensive Namaqua chameleon putting on his threat display — it is normally a light beige color to match the sand, but it turns darker to show off its bright mouth when attempting to scare off intruders.

* * *

Brookesia micra
(Photo: Frank Glaw, Jörn Köhler, Ted M. Townsend, Miguel Vences/Wikimedia Commons)

Brookesia micra is the smallest known chameleon. The juvenile above is so small, it can balance atop the head of a match! This amazing lizard only grows to be about an inch long, at the most.

* * *

Long-nosed chameleon
(Photo: Frank Vassen/Wikimedia Commons)

The incredible lance-nosed chameleon is an endangered species that lives in Madagascar. Its forest home is threatened by deforestation.

* * *

Parson's chameleon
(Photo: Leonara Enking/Flickr)

Another species from Madagascar, Parson's chameleon is one of the biggest.

* * *

Brown leaf chameleon
(Photo: Ryan M. Bolton/Shutterstock)

The brown leaf chameleon lives on the forest floor of Madagascar — which explains its technique of playing dead: it folds up its limbs and rolls over to its side, looking just like a dead leaf.

* * *

Jeweled chameleon
(Photo: Andrea Schieber/Flickr)

The dizzying patterns of jewelled chameleons make these lizards stand out. This species is another vulnerable species of Madagascar.

* * *

Rhinoceros chameleon
(Photo: Ryan M. Bolton/Shutterstock)

The male's odd nose gives Madagascar's rhinoceros chameleon its name.

* * *

Panther chameleon
(Photo: Marc Staub/Flickr)

The panther chameleon is another colorful species native to Madagascar.

* * *

Veiled chameleon
(Photo: Colin Frankland/Flickr)

Veiled chameleons can be found in Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Males, which can grow up to 2 feet long, often will attempt to mate with other males.

* * *

Nose-horned chameleon
(Photo: Frank Vassen/Flickr)

The nose-horned chameleon of looks significantly funnier than its Madagascar cousins.

* * *

Cameroon sailfin chameleon
(Photo: reptiles4all/Shutterstock)

The Cameroon sailfin chameleon can almost exclusively be found around Mount Cameroon in the country of the same name in Central Africa.

* * *