White-lined Chameleon
Furcifer lateralis (Gray, 1831)

Family: Chamaeleonidae

Order: Squamata (Sauria) - Lizards

Class: Reptilia

Phylum: Chordata - Vertebrates

Kingdom: Animalia

Red List status: Not listed

Furcifer lateralis male. Manderano, Tulear Region, Madagascar
Male

Snout-vent length:139 mm (exceptionally to 142 mm)

Total length: 293 mm (exceptionally to 302 mm)

 

Female

Snout-vent length:110 mm

Total length: 228 mm

Other Common Names: Jewel Chameleon, Carpet Chameleon

RANGE

 

Endemic to Madagascar, where it is widely distributed throughout the south and central plateau regions of the island.

 

DESCRIPTION

A mid-sized chameleon with a distinct parietal crest and prominent ridges of enlarged scales running from just behind the snout tip (but not in contact with one another) over the eyes to the base of the casque. These ridges form distinct rostral and lateral crests. There are no occipital lobes. The white-lined chameleon has no dorsal crest, but a double row of small tubercles extends down the length of the back. A white mid-ventral line is present. In both sexes, patterning normally consists of a single white line extending horizontally along the centre of the flank. This line typically bisects three or sometimes four dark-rimmed circles, which may be most evident in females. There is a prominent white line along the lips.

Males can readily be distinguished from females by colouration; males are generally green, often bright, but may range from bluish green to brown, variation that may be associated with differences in habitat preference. Males also have longer tails than females, may be more slender, and possess a noticeable hemipenal bulge. Female ground colour is typically brown, often with complex mottled patterning in brighter colours, but animals may adopt bright red, orange, blue or yellow colouration when gravid or receptive.

Similar species: The white-lined chameleon lacks a rostral appendage in either sex, readily distinguishing it from Furcifer pardalis, F. angeli, F. antimena, F. labordi, F. rhinoceratus, F. wilsii and the rare F. tuzetae, all of which may have white lateral stripes. Additionally, F. angelis and F. rhinoceratus occur outside the known range of F. lateralis. The absence of a spined dorsal crest distinguishes the white-lined chameleon from most species. Calumma adrigitraense from southeast Madagascar also lacks a snout appendage and dorsal crest, and exhibits superficially similar flank patterning. This species differs from F. lateralis in lacking a parietal crest and in possessing a pair of mid-ventral stripes rather than one; in addition it has a lower casque.

Confusion is most likely with the closely-related F. campani. This species exhibits very different colouration and patterning, characterised by darker shades of green or brown and the possession of three thin lateral stripes, which may range from white to yellow or blue. Unlike F. lateralis, the central stripe extends along the base of the tail. Numerous small white ocelli are present on the flanks, absent in F. lateralis, and dark circles are not present. F. campani appears to be restricted to montane savannah habitats, limiting confusion with white-lined chameleons encountered elsewhere.

 

HABITAT

Highly varied. The species appears to be cosmopolitan throughout its range, and has been recorded from urban areas including Antananarivo. In natural situations, it inhabits areas ranging from dry subtropical spiny forests in the southwest to the eastern tropical rainforests. It is also known to occur alongside the similar F. campani in montane savannahs.

 

BEHAVIOUR

F. lateralis is frequently encountered on the ground or in low vegetation; however specimens have been recorded in the forest canopy.

Reproductive behaviour: Copulation in the white-lined chameleon can last for 10-20 minutes; eggs are laid terrestrially with one to two months after mating, and the female typically buries them to a depth of about 10cm.

 

BIOLOGY

Clutch size: Clutch size is highly variable, from 4-23 eggs, with a female laying 4-5 clutches in a season.

Life cycle: Young take between five months and a year to hatch from the egg, and reach sexual maturity after a further 4-6 months (sometimes 3 months in captivity). The maximum lifespan of animals in captivity is 3 years, but they may only survive for a year in the wild.

 

TAXONOMY

Although F. lateralis is widely-distributed in Madagascar and significant genetic differences exist between populations, no subspecies have been formally recognised. Larger animals, including the largest recorded, have been informally assigned to F. l. 'major' and most taxonomists treat this form as a valid subspecies.

 

 

REFERENCES

 

Amiran, J. (2002) Furcifer lateralis lateralis. AdCham.com

Glaw, F. and Vences, M. (2007) A Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Madagascar. Third Edition. Cologne, Vences & Glaw Verlag: 496pp

Furcifer lateralis male at night. Manderano, Tulear Region, Madagascar. Note the dark circles on the flank, the dorsal ridge of tubercles (rather than spines) and the prominent parietal and rostral crests.

Range            Description            Habitat            Behaviour            Biology            Taxonomy            References