Can Chameleons Actually Jump? [Interesting Facts]

A reptile being a jumper is nothing new, especially reptiles like geckos. But last time we checked, not all the reptiles had the ability to take the leap. Some are surely fast, but jumping is simply a whole other chapter. Now the question is, what about chameleons? Can they jump too?

Well, despite popular belief, chameleons can’t actually jump. They proceed slowly and methodically to maximize the effectiveness of each step. They spend their whole lives in the trees, so the idea of taking the risk of a free fall is something they just can’t connect to.

But isn’t it a simple and basic ability of all animals, especially when they’re in a situation of need? Well, no, there is more to it, and that’s what we’re going to tell you about today.

What is Stopping Your Chameleon From Jumping?

Have you seen the anatomy of chameleons? Well, they’re designed in that way for a few reasons, and jumping is not one of them. But why exactly can’t they pull that off? Well, we guess it’s for the following causes.

Jumping Wasn’t Part of the Evolution

If you’ve seen chameleon behaviour up close, you surely have noticed how exceptionally calculative they are as creatures. However, this in no way implies that they are overly intelligent animals. They’re cold and calculative just because they’re terrified of dying and eager to stay alive.

To minimize the potential for harm, chameleons meticulously plot their next action. Unlike most of the other reptiles, these small lizards prefer to spend their time in the trees.

This implies they never leave the trees but rather spend their whole lives moving from one tree to another. You wouldn’t need us to tell you how tall trees are if you’ve ever been in a forest.

As a result of their natural selection, their feet have developed to a point where they can securely grab a branch without fear of dropping. After all, these color shifters are quite unlikely to stumble.

Rather than hopping around wildly like a monkey, it’s preferable for them to remain safely perched on one branch. If a chameleon wants to get up high, it is far better off climbing than jumping.

Jumping is Not Required for Hunting

There’s no way to deny that animals only acquire skills that are essential to their existence, especially when they are compelled to do so. And when it comes to being able to get food, hunting is a crucial survival skill for chameleons to fill up their stomach, like lots of other reptiles.

If you’ve already looked into a chameleon’s diet, you probably had seen nothing much there but termites and other types of insects, especially the winged ones. And the interesting part is their staple meal, the crickets, can reach them on their own. So, they don’t need to struggle to bring them closer.

But of course, the fact that the meals can come to them on their wings isn’t the sole reason why they don’t feel the need to jump. If you’re familiar with chameleons at all, you know that their tongues are one of their most distinctive characteristics that make their hunting easier compared to the other reptiles.

They use their impressively long tongues as their primary hunting tool. It’s not just the length of their tongues that we’re calling impressive, but their speed of speech is also equally incredible. In just a few moments, a chameleon can pounce on an insect that is twice its length away.

Because of this remarkable ability, chameleons are sometimes touted as the reptiles with the quickest tongues in the animal kingdom. Scientists have also taken an interest in measuring the speed of a chameleon’s tongue.

And guess what they’ve discovered? A chameleon’s tongue can reach speeds of up to 8,500 feet in a single second. Compared to the speed of sound, this is 7.5 times faster.  We don’t know what else to call that, but it certainly is stunning.

This means, if they are planning on eating an insect, it’ll be dead before the insect gets the chance to make a move. When using such a strategy to hunt, there’s no need for them to leap to their target.

The Limbs Are Not Strong Enough

Clearly, you can call a chameleon anything but a sporty creature. There’s no way to deny that they are great when it comes to climbing or hunting. But they face no difficulty during all that activity even though their limbs are weak.

It’s not that hard to imagine how fragile they are with their stick-like limbs. The chameleon’s slow speed and lack of strength make it next to impossible for the reptile to make a jump.

But strength isn’t the only major issue here – there are other issues as well. With that kind of fragile limbs, these color shifters might injure themselves, no matter how weak the jumps are.

Guess what? The injuries might not catch your eye that easily. The truth is, small jumps may not seem significant at first, but they add up over time. With growing age, they surely gather some experience in jumping. But the story doesn’t end here.

As they continue to leap, they start suffering from increasing bone injury, which eventually leads to a loss of limb function. Now, can you find any logical reason why should they deal with the risk of giving themselves permanent and untreatable suffering if they don’t have to?

However, maybe you’re sure you’ve witnessed your chameleon jumping before. It’s true that they don’t jump usually, but it doesn’t mean they won’t if they have to.

When Does a Chameleon Decide to Jump?

It’s true that chameleons strictly avoid hopping from place to place in order to get some extra convenience, but they might do it if they have to. Though it’s highly improbable, several chameleon owners claim that their pets have hopped on occasion. Here are two potential predicaments that might make chameleons take the leap.

During Handling

You already know, how calculative creatures chameleons are. They’ll look into their circumstances first and do what’s best for themselves while going forward. The same goes for the situations when they decide to jump.

If you’d ask most of the owners, they all will agree on the term that the only time their chameleon will ever leap is when they reach out to capture it. And guess what? They do it because the owners were probably stressing them up. And the worst case scenario – the reptile is simply scared of them.

Even if it means certain death, the lizard will still choose to leap if there are no other viable choices available to them. The simple meaning of a chameleon jumping off your palm or running away is that it is trying to avoid you. They realized the danger and jumped rather than be killed by you.

Actually, they’d sooner risk death by falling than let you catch them. As a species, chameleons aren’t really social creatures; thus, they despise any kind of human interaction.

In this kind of situation, the best thing you can do is avoid handling your chameleon. The thing is, unless absolutely necessary, it’s better to avoid handling them at all costs. After all, you certainly wouldn’t want to injure your chameleon, would you?

Fear of Predators

If you’ve read or seen any documentary about the worst fears of a chameleon, we bet you’ve seen the fear of predators there. Clearly, actions like jumping aren’t limited to human interaction only. This occurs frequently in the wild too when they are confronted by predators.

Don’t blame your chameleon if it’s running away from you, thinking that you’re a predator too. After all, your hand reminds them of nothing but the claws of their hunters. They feel like you’re trying to hunt them down and kill them. Not only you, but they’ll count every single creature as a threat if it’s larger than them.

How to Handle a Chameleon Without Making it Jump?

It’s nothing new to the cham owners that these reptiles aren’t the most sociable of pets, and they don’t appreciate being handled. The jumping part we guess said a lot about that already. After all, they’ve been surviving in the wild for millennia, so they’ve figured out how to avoid detection. No human hands ever came in contact with them.

But these days, they’ve turned into popular pets for many households. However, being a species that has never had human contact, they are extremely sensitive to stress. Remember that stress is bad for them and that extreme stress may even be fatal, making them take extreme steps like jumping.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t handle the reptile without making them jump. The only thing you need to do is be patient and follow a set of steps that includes –

Getting Closer

Get closer, but be careful not to scare them off. To get them used to you being around, just sit near them for a few minutes. You shouldn’t frighten them since it might lead to anxiety.

By the way, don’t even think about putting your hand in their tank to catch them, or you’ll have to experience their bite for sure. So, the best way is to be with them for a bit and then go on.

Offering Food

Trying to feed them with your hand is a direct and personal experience. Repeatedly doing this will aid in their adaption to the environment and strengthen their relationship with you.

When you’re trying to feed them, make sure that you’re approaching with their favorite food or insects. In most cases, they prefer to have a bite of crickets.

Making Them Feel Comfortable

After they have finished eating the first feeder bug, carefully insert your hand back into the cage. The reptile will approach you because they believe you have food for them.

Don’t get surprised if they decide to step on your hand. Check to make sure they are relaxed and feeling comfortable enough before you pick them up; this will make them feel safe and sound while being carried.

And one more suggestion – rather than picking them up on your own against their will, wait for them to find and come for you. If they are okay with you holding them, they will let you do so for a longer amount of time. However, you will see them puffing if they are not okay with your touch.

Providing Support

Don’t just let your chameleon hang in the air. They’re used to grasping familiar objects, but your hand is surely a foreign terrain. Give your chameleon some time to settle in. Meanwhile, make sure it can adequately grasp your hand or fingers. Most likely, they will freeze to your hand, but there’s nothing to worry about that.

By the way, giving a bit of push on the reptile’s back will make it feel like it’s the sign for them to move forward and grab your finger or hand in the first place. Once the lizard gets used to this routine, you may even let it switch hands.

If your chameleon is younger, pulling all these off will be way easier. But if the chameleon is larger by size, you can even provide a branch for it to climb. In case you see the chameleon has already hopped on a branch in its tank, you can simply place your palm under the reptile’s chin so that it can climb up on your hand.

Final Words

Overall, chameleons aren’t good jumpers. The thing is, evolution has never pushed them to perfect their capacity to leap since they see no reason to do so. A chameleon will make an unnatural movement, such as a leap if it feels threatened.

If you’re trying to pick up your lizard and it keeps jumping, you better stop immediately. You never know when they will jump and injure or kill themselves rather than being held by human hands.

Muntaseer Rahman

I have been keeping shrimps as a pet for many years now. I’ve fallen in love with these cute pets from the moment I saw them. That’s why I am writing articles to share my shrimp keeping knowledge with you.

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