There is a dwarf in the tree ….

A few nights back an Eastern Cape Dwarf chameleon (Bradypodion ventrale) was spotted in an acacia tree in Beacon Bay, East London. Many years ago this species were quite common but they haven’t been seen regularly in recent times.

The Eastern Cape Dwarf chameleon is one of the larger of the fifteen currently recognised species of dwarf chameleons in South Africa (all of which are endemic to the country). The genus is widespread but essentially absent from the Kalahari and the Karoo.

white eye & chameleon

Eastern Cape Dwarf chameleon in Beacon Bay. Photo: Kevin Cole ELM

All dwarf chameleons are viviparous – an average of 5-15 babies are born alive and fully developed after a gestation period of about 3 months. These tiny (20mm) reptiles are fully equipped for survival and can feed on small insects.

Bradypodion ventrale illustrated above can be identified by a casque that is slightly swept back, a pale gular region and a dorsal crest composed of pronounced triangular tubercles. Two rows of larger tubercles are also noted on the flanks. It is a grey chameleon with a light central patch on the flanks. The enlarged tubercles my be yellow or green to orange-brown.

Chameleons are not found worldwide – restricted to Madagascar, Africa and some neigbouring islands such as the Comores, Mauritius, Seychelles and Zanzibar. There are about 150 – 160 species arranged into 9 genera.

Reference: Chameleons of southern Africa by Krystal Tolley and Marius Burger

About East London Museum Science

Conservation Biologist East London Museum South Africa
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