Four tiny (but fiercely-cute) Panther Chameleons recently hatched at the Tennessee Aquarium!
After hatching, from eggs laid in January of this year, the babies measured in at around two inches long. They are now growing quickly under the care provided by Tennessee Aquarium herpetologists.
The daily routine for these tiny reptiles includes feeding them small insects (along with calcium and vitamins twice a day), cleaning their environment, and spraying them with lukewarm water.
Right now these babies, along with their parents, live in a backup area at the Aquarium, but it is hoped that these creatures will be viewable by the public in the near future.
Panther Chameleons (Furcifer pardalis) are native to tropical forest biome areas of Madagascar. Like other chameleon species, Panther Chameleons display a wide array of colors. Females are typically peach, pink or grey while the males have red, blue or green color patterns. Babies have a more neutral coloring until they reach reproductive maturity at several months old.
These fascinating reptiles are carnivorous and eat a variety of insects in the wild. Chameleons are stealthy hunters, using a sticky, mucus-covered tongue to strike their prey and pull it back into their mouths.
Male Panther Chameleons can grow up to 20 inches (51 cm) in length, with a typical length of around 17 inches (43 cm), and females are smaller, at about half that size.
Panther Chameleons can reach sexual maturity at around seven months old. When carrying eggs, females turn dark brown or black with an orange stripe to signify to males they have no intention of mating.
Females usually live two to three years after laying eggs (with a total of between five and eight clutches) because of the stress put on their bodies. Females can lay between 10 and 40 eggs per clutch, depending on the food and nutrient consumption during the period of development. Eggs typically hatch in 240 days.
The Panther Chameleon is currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. According to the IUCN, “Habitat degradation is unlikely to represent a major threat to this species given its apparently adaptability to, and indeed preference for, degraded habitats. Although this is the most sought-after Malagasy chameleon in the international pet trade, current levels of exploitation are not thought to represent a threat.”