When you first get a chameleon, you notice all sorts of little quirks about their behavior. One of these you will notice pretty early on is that chameleons will sometimes sit with their mouth wide open like a yawn.
According to biologists at the university of South Dakota, the main reason chameleons gape is in response to feeling stressed and threatened.
Other reasons are feeling too hot and suffering from a respiratory infection.
This article will tell you all the reasons why chameleons keep their mouth open and what you can do to prevent this for your pet chameleon and make them more comfortable.
A response to threat is the main reason chameleons gape their mouths open.
This was demonstrated in the above-mentioned study carried out at the university of South Dakota. The chameleons in the study were:
‘allowed to interact with the predator for 30 s (further durations did not elicit an additional response), with each trial being video recorded for subsequent scoring of behavioral responses. Behavioral responses were categorized as either: (i) aggression (body inflation, mouth gaping, hissing and/or lunging); (ii) fleeing (quick escape from the predator); (iii) crypsis (changing color to more closely match background); (iv) ring-flipping (rotating to the side of the branch opposite from the predator’s view‘
As you can see, the primary response of a chameleon when responding to a threat is mouth gaping. So, how does this relate to your chameleon?
In my experience, my chameleon would do this pretty much every time I went near his cage. He did this because chameleons see us humans as a threat and will react accordingly.
You can minimize them doing this by moving slowly when you are near their cage, not physically interacting with them by trying to hold them often, and by moving away when you see them in this posture.
Feeling Too Hot
The other main reason is if they are overheating. A chameleon needs to regulate their temperature by moving back and forth between warmer and cooler areas. In captivity, you recreate this by having a basking lamp for them to warm up under and by giving them access to lower parts of the cage to cool off.
This is usually easily achieved, but if your temperatures are incorrect, this is when serious problems start to happen. A chameleon gaping their mouth in response to being too hot is usually done as a last resort, if you see this behavior and you have eliminated the possibility it is a threat response, check your temperatures and, if you have moved the cage outside, move them immediately to a cooler location.
Open Mouth Breathing
This is the worst but also the least likely scenario. If your chameleon is:
- Keeping its mouth open all day whilst sitting under its basking lamp
- Seems un alert
- Isn’t eating or drinking
- Taking big gulps of air whilst tipping its head up
It’s likely they have a respiratory infection and this needs immediate veterinary attention. Do not try to solve this issue on your own.