How and Why Chameleons Change Colors

Ross, Shirley Neil School

Objectives: Given a chameleon, the students will observe the color changes and explain the possible conditions that cause this reptile to change colors. Given a chameleon, the students will discuss the biological factors that cause color changes. Given a chameleon, the students will note the amount of time needed in order for changes in the pigmentary system to become apparent. Apparatus needed: 4 chameleons 16 pieces of felt (4 pieces of beige, black, green, and yellow) 4 flashlights 4 crickets 4 plastic boxes 4 brown paper bags Recommended strategy: Divide the class into four groups. Remove each chameleon from a paper bag. Note the chameleon's color at this time. The students will place the chameleons on varying colors of cloth. Note each color change and time needed for this color change to take place. Next, each group will shine a flashlight on the chameleon. Again, note the color change and time needed for this change. Now, place each chameleon and a cricket in a plastic box. Watch for a color change and the time. The students should notice that all of these factors could cause a color change. However, the most influencing factor is light. Explain to the students that the chameleon's ability to change color is controlled by hormones. These hormones act on various pigments in the skin. Special cells called chromatophores in the skin allow the chameleon to change colors. You might also want to discuss the meaning of the words "pigments" and "chromatophores".
Return to Biology Index