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Q & A: What color is a chameleon in water?

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Most recent answer: 11/04/2013
What color would a chameleon become if you throw it in water?
- Shreyas Nagesh (age 12)
Bangalore, Karnataka, India

Hi Shreyas,

Awesome question. A biologist would be better able to answer this question, since it depends almost entirely on how and why chameleons change their color. Luckily, there is a lot of good information on the web about chameleons. Here's what I found out.

Chameleon skin cells contain many different color pigments. Signals from the chameleon's brain can control the location of these pigments: they can be concentrated into small containers (vesicles) in the cells, or they can be spread out through the entire cell. When the pigments of a specific color are concentrated, they are not very visible, so we see the chameleons other colors.

A common misconception is that chameleons use color change primarily as camouflage. Actually, most chameleons use color to indicate moods or convey signals. For example, an angry chameleon will display dark colors, while lighter colors are used to attract mates or to stay cool on a hot day. Only a few rare species of chameleons routinely use their color-changing skills as camoflauge (

What about a chameleon in water? I think most chameleons would ignore the color of the water, and continue using their pigment-shifting skills to convey messages or adjust to the environment and temperature. Certainly this chameleon () and this () chameleon seem to be comfortable keeping their natural colors.

Hope that helps,

David Schmid

(published on 11/04/2013)

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