Do substrate roughness and gap distance impact gap-bridging strategies in arboreal chameleons?

Allison Luger, Vincent Vermeylen, Anthony Herrel, Dominique Adriaens


Chameleons are well equipped for an arboreal lifestyle, having “zygodactylous” hands and feet as well as a fully prehensile tail. However, to what degree tail use is preferred over autopod prehension has been largely neglected. Using an indoor experimental set-up, where chameleons had to cross gaps of varying distances, we tested the effect of substrate diameter and roughness on tail use in Chamaeleo calyptratus. Our results show that when crossing greater distances, C. calyptratus is more likely to use its tail for additional stability. The animals were able to cross greater distances (up to 1.75 times the shoulder-hip length) on perches with a rougher surface. We saw that depending on the distance of the gap, chameleons would change how they use their prehensile tails when crossing. With shorter gaps the tails either do not touch, or only touch the perch without coiling around it. With larger distances the tails are fully coiled around the perch, and with the largest distances additionally they reposition the hind legs, shifting them towards the end of the perch. Males were able to cross relatively greater distances than females, likely due to their larger size and strength.


chameleons; prehensility; gap bridging; substrate type

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