The panther chameleon is one of the most intriguing reptiles in Madagascar. Its spectacular skin colors and camouflage patterns make it an eye candy for scientists everywhere.
The panther chameleon is also known for its reclusiveness and amazing camouflaging skills.
This species of reptile is very large for a chameleon and can grow up to be 50 cm long. The average size is around 45 centimeters.
The panther chameleon lives throughout the Madagascar island, especially on the north-western, north-eastern and central-eastern coasts.
This species of chameleon has also been introduced to other regions like Mauritius and La Reunion.
What fascinates the scientists the most is the chameleon’s vibrant coloration.
Professor Milinkovitch and his team of researchers conducted a recent study in which they analyzed the color variation and the molecular phylogeography of this particular species of chameleons.
The researchers collected samples of blood from more than 300 panther chameleons from different locations. The scientists then documented the reptiles using high-resolution color photography.
The next step of the study was to analyze and sequence the nuclear and mitochondrial DNA of all the specimens.
According to professor Milinkovitch, the genetic material suggests that there is a strong genetic structure in the specimens. This means that there is a low interbreeding among the chameoleon population in certain regions of the island.
The mathematical analysis of the 300 photos of chameleons showed that there are subtle color patters that could easily predicts the assignment of individuals to their corresponding genetic lineage.
This only confirms that many of the panther chameleon populations on the island belong to different species, not just one.
The researchers detailed their findings in the journal Molecular Ecology.
The scientist also simplified the analysis of the chameleons’ color diversity and classified it accordingly.
This classification key allows the biologists to link many of the chameleons to their corresponding species just by identifying their color patterns.
According to the scientists, this classification key will help biologists from Madagascar and trade managers to avoid over-harvesting by local populations.
The authors of the study said that it’s a very difficult task to manage the biodiversity of Madagascar mostly because of the increasing deforestation for agricultural practices.
Another reason responsible for the destruction of the local forests is the charcoal and firewood production. The local populations who have very low living standards need to do this in order to survive, the scientists wrote in their paper.
Image Source: flchams