Posted by: cochinblogger | April 19, 2010

The Great Chameleon Mystery

One day, while walking back from work, a red streak in the corner of my eye made me turn my head. It was a chameleon sitting on a wall by the road; it’s head had turned a bright shade of red, while the rest of its body was brown. I took out my camera from the bag and turned to look at it, and to my surprise it was still there. Many of these creatures, for some strange reason, are reluctant to be my photographic subjects and take to their heels at the sight of the camera. I need not have worried. I managed to edge closer and take some fine pictures of this strange specimen.

I continued my walk, troubled by the mystery of the red color on the chameleon. Why had its head turned that shade of red? When I viewed the photo on my PC, a building with a red parapet was visible in the background. The chameleon appeared to be looking in that direction when I intruded into its reverie. But when I returned to the spot the next day, I saw that the building with the red parapet was a good distance away from where the chameleon was on the wall. Could the distant red parapet account for the red color of the chameleon’s head?

A few days ago I read the following in an encyclopedia for “the younger reader”:

“The chameleon lizard is famed for its camouflage. Its eyes see the colours around it. They send a message to the brain, which sends signals along nerves to the skin. This makes grains of coloured pigment clump together or spread out to change the skin colour.”

Now, that’s a cool explanation. The chameleon in the photo must have been looking at the red parapet, so its body was slowly turning red when I encountered it.

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