In the Namib desert there are no trees for hundreds of miles, and it therefore seems the most unlikely place to find a chameleon which is so well adapted for life among trees. Yet the pincer feet of the Namaqua chameleon, good for clinging to twigs, can also be spread over the sand like snow shoes so she doesn't sink in the sand. She exploits the chameleon's colour-changing ability to warm her body, by turning the side facing the sun dark to absorb heat, and the side facing away light to minimise heat loss. Food and mates are hard to come by in such a barren landscape, and where food is concerned it's often best to find what little cover there is and wait for the prey to come to you. The chameleon's long sticky tongue is an obvious asset here. Searching for a mate is a more time consuming and chancy business, but eventually this female's search is rewarded by the appearance of a male on the dune horizon. But he doesn't have the usual gentility associated with chameleons. Here, the chances of finding mates are so small in this vast emptiness, that he can't risk rejection. So her runs at her, and wrestles her into submission. After mating, the female marches on alone carrying a new generation.
Available since: Mon 12 Oct 2009
- David Attenborough
- Martha Holmes
- Executive Producer
- Michael Gunton