There are several obvious unique and striking things about chameleons. Their beautiful colors, the ability to change these colors, their eyes that swivel in all directions and the way they camouflage. All these things are well known and well embedded in popular culture.
One unique thing that always gets overlooked about chameleons though is their feet. I say unique because no other creature in the world have feet quite like a chameleon’s so in this article I’m going to tell you what you need to know about them.
What kind of feet do chameleons have?
Chameleons are arboreal, meaning they live in trees. To climb about and thrive in this environment they need feet that are up to the job. Chameleons have what are called zygodactyl like feet, these are feet that are commonly found on parrots and it means they have four toes, two on the inner side and two on the outside and these toes work in pairs.
I say zygodactyl like because chameleon’s feet are not the same as a parrot’s.Where a chameleon’s feet differ is that they five toes where three work together and the other two work together as a pair. What makes a chameleon’s feet even more unique is they have two toes on the inner side of the foot three on the outer side. However this only applies to the front feet, the rear feet have the same setup but in the opposite way, so three toes are on the inner side and two are on the outside.
More unique still is the structure of a chameleon’s foot joint. Instead of having a hinge joint like most other reptile species, the chameleon has a ball and socket joint allowing it to rotate in order to position itself more comfortably on to a branch. Combined with its sharp claws the ball and socket joint enable it get a thorough vice like grip of a branch and effotlessly climb vertical tree trunks covered with thick bark.
If you get a pet chameleon do not trim its claws, even though you may be tempted to do so, as these are necessary for your chameleon’s ability to climb.
Do chameleons have webbed feet?
The short answer is no. Webbed feet are mainly for swimming animals and generally leave no gaps between their toes. This may appear to be the case when looking at a chameleon’s feet at first glance but on closer inspection you will see that while their toes are close together there is actually a small gap towards the tip. Chameleons can’t swim and have no use for webbed feet.
Do chameleons have sticky feet?
Definitely not. Other lizards like geckos have sticky feet that are actually microscopic hairs allowing them to climb sheer surfaces. Chameleons instead have feet that work like salad tongs giving a vice like grip on branches of different widths and prehensile tails that work as an extra limb to grab onto branches and reduce the chances of a chameleon falling.
Why is my chameleon’s feet swollen?
Chameleons can develop several problems with their feet. A common reason for swollen feet is gout where the swelling occurs around the ankle. Gout is the build up of uric acid in the joints and is caused by too much protein in the diet or kidney failure. Gout is usually accompanied by other symptoms like increased aggression, lack of interest in food or excessive drinking. Gout is difficult to treat and will require veterinary care as soon as you possible.
Other problems are caused by poor handling of your chameleon. By this I mean pulling them off a branch or the side of a screen cage. This can cause claws to be pulled out leaving open wounds that can cause infection. If you must handle your chameleon coax them onto your hand instead of physically picking them up from above, something that is very stressful to your chameleon.
Sores can also form on the bottom of the feet if the perches provided for them are too abrasive and if you see your chameleon’s foot turn white do no be alarmed! This is most likely the beginning your chameleon shedding their skin, more about which can be read about in my article.
Veiled chameleon feet
A final mention needs to be made about veiled chameleon feet because male veiled chameleons have an extra feature that allow you to determine that they are male. Unlike female veiled chameleons, males have two little bumps on the backs of their hind feet called tarsal spurs. This is the easiest way to determine the sex of a veiled chameleon.
I hope you found this article about chameleon feet useful and you learned something new.