Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Chameleons use colorful language to communicate: Chameleons' body regions are 'billboards' for different types of information

Date:
December 11, 2013
Source:
Arizona State University
Summary:
To protect themselves, some animals rapidly change color when their environments change, but chameleons change colors in unusual ways when they interact with other chameleons. Researchers have discovered that these color changes don't happen "out-of-the-blue" -- instead, they convey different types of information during important social interactions.

Veiled chameleons (Chameleon calyptratus) are native to the Arabian Peninsula -- specifically Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
Credit: Megan Best

To protect themselves, some animals rapidly change color when their environments change, but chameleons change colors in unusual ways when they interact with other chameleons. Arizona State University researchers have discovered that these color changes don't happen "out-of-the-blue" -- instead, they convey different types of information during important social interactions.

For example, when male chameleons challenge each other for territory or a female, their coloring becomes brighter and much more intense. Males that display brighter stripes when they are aggressive are more likely to approach their opponent, and those that achieve brighter head colors are more likely to win fights. Also, how quickly their heads change color is an important predictor of which chameleon will win a skirmish.

The results of the study are published online today in the journal Biology Letters.

Russell Ligon, a doctoral candidate in ASU's School of Life Sciences, and Kevin McGraw, an associate professor in the school, used photographic and mathematical modeling tools in new ways to study how the color change of veiled chameleons (Chameleon calyptratus) relates to aggressive behavior. They studied the distance, maximum brightness and speed of color change of 28 different patches across the chameleons' bodies.

"We found that the stripes, which are most apparent when chameleons display their bodies laterally to their opponents, predict the likelihood that a chameleon will follow up with an actual approach," said Ligon. "In addition, head coloration -- specifically brightness and speed of color change -- predicted which was lizard was going to win."

Chameleons typically have resting colors that range from brown to green, with hints of yellow, but each chameleon has unique markings. During a contest, the lizards show bright yellows, oranges, greens and turquoises. Interestingly, when the chameleons showed-off their stripes from a distance and followed that display with a "head-on" approach before combat, the important color signals on the striped parts of the body and head were accentuated.

"By using bright color signals and drastically changing their physical appearance, the chameleons' bodies become almost like a billboard -- the winner of a fight is often decided before they actually make physical contact," Ligon said. "The winner is the one that causes its opponent to retreat. While sometimes they do engage in physical combat, these contests are very short -- five to 15 seconds. More often than not, their color displays end the contest before they even get started."

This is the first study of its kind. The research team took pictures of color standards and estimated the sensitivity of different photoreceptors in their cameras. Then, they used information on the physiology and sensitivity of the photoreceptors of chameleons, and were able to measure the colors actually seen by the lizards. Though this method has previously been used to quantify static (unchanging) coloration, this study is the first to quantify rapid color change while incorporating the visual sensitivities of the animals under study.

There are approximately 160 species of chameleons in the world. Veiled chameleons (Chameleon calyptratus) are native to the Arabian Peninsula -- specifically Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They are omnivorous and live essentially solitary lives except when mating. Many chameleons are at great risk, as destruction of their habitats is occurring at alarming rates.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Arizona State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. R. A. Ligon, K. J. McGraw. Chameleons communicate with complex colour changes during contests: different body regions convey different information. Biology Letters, 2013; 9 (6): 20130892 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.0892

Cite This Page:

Arizona State University. "Chameleons use colorful language to communicate: Chameleons' body regions are 'billboards' for different types of information." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131211134233.htm>.
Arizona State University. (2013, December 11). Chameleons use colorful language to communicate: Chameleons' body regions are 'billboards' for different types of information. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131211134233.htm
Arizona State University. "Chameleons use colorful language to communicate: Chameleons' body regions are 'billboards' for different types of information." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131211134233.htm (accessed August 27, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Calif. Quake Underscores Need for Early Warning

Calif. Quake Underscores Need for Early Warning

AP (Aug. 26, 2014) Researchers at UC Berkeley are testing a prototype of an earthquake early warning system that California is pursuing years after places like Mexico and Japan already have them up and running. (August 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 26, 2014) Huge waves generated by Hurricane Marie hit the Southern California coast. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Brazil Tries Genetically Modified Mosquitoes to Fight Dengue

Brazil Tries Genetically Modified Mosquitoes to Fight Dengue

AFP (Aug. 25, 2014) A factory in the industrial state of Sao Paulo produces genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue, a deadly tropical disease more prevalent in Brazil than anywhere else in the world. Duration: 00:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Prime Minister at Japan Landslide Site

Raw: Prime Minister at Japan Landslide Site

AP (Aug. 25, 2014) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Hiroshima on Monday as rescuers expanded their search for dozens still missing from landslides around the western Japanese city that killed at least 50 people. (Aug. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins