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Meet Gambit! Science World’s Panther Chameleon

Let’s talk about one of the most interesting inhabitants of Science World, Gambit. Gambit is Science World’s four-year-old panther chameleon.

Chameleons have some pretty unique adaptations. You’ve probably heard that a chameleon’s skin can change colour, but they also have oven-mitt-like hands, 360° vision and a tongue as long as their bodies!

Gambit is a very good climber.

Chameleon’s have fascinating hands. They have five digits, just like us humans do, but two of those digits are fused and the other three are also fused. This creates an oven mitt like hand which allows them to be excellent climbers. Curious about the scientific name for this type of “hand”? Zygodactyly. Some other zygodactyly animals are parrots, woodpeckers and owls.

Now how about those eyes?

Think it would be handy to see behind you and in front of you at the same time? Well chameleons can! Their eyes move independently of each other allowing them to look at two different directions, simultaneously. Gambit’s eyes allow him to see 360° around him. As you can see from the picture above, his lower and upper eyelids are fused and are the only thing holding his eyeballs in his head.

Interestingly, chameleons will bring both eyes to focus in the same direction when prey is found. This is largely because depth perception is limited with one eye.

Speaking of preydid you know that chameleons eat really really fast?

0.0030 seconds is about how long it takes Gambit's tongue to go from his mouth to catching prey—that’s pretty fast. For perspective, that’s like shooting his tongue at 26 body lengths per second. With these long tongues, chameleons can reach prey that are up to 1.5x it’s body length away.

Did you think that chameleons change colour to camouflage with their surroundings?

So did I! In reality, however, they do not. You’re probably thinking, what do you mean chameleons can’t change colour to camouflage? That’s what I’ve learned my whole life! Well, we now know, through scientific research, that chameleons actually change colour based on their mood.

Think of this. When we humans get angry, what happens? We become red in many cases. Something similar happens to Gambit, except when he gets upset he turns a bright yellow and puffs up. When he is neutral or happy, he is a vibrant green!

Another use for Gambit's colour change is communication. If Gambit is feeling particularly festive and would like to attract a mate, he puts on his best and brightest layer—like you do! 

Gambit is a very interesting little guy, you should definitely come say hello to him in the Search Gallery at Science World!