origins and distribution

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Squamata (lizard family) appeared around 195 million years ago in the Triassic Click for more Dino InfoPeriod, Chameleonidae Family appeared nearly 100 million year ago during the Cretaceous Period. Fossil remains have been found in Bavaria. Some experts consider Mimeosaurous (from Mongolia in the upper Cretaceous Period) to be related to true chameleons.

The oldest proven ancestor from  fossil is the Chamaeleo caroliquarti from approximately 26 million years ago in western Bohemia. Fossils have been found in a much wider range than chameleons inhabit today. The fossil record is sparse, but the history of chameleons may be more than 60 million years old. Chameleons are believed to have originated in Africa or Madagascar. Based on the known fossil record, chameleons were distributed in Africa but also in parts of the world where they are not found today, such as China, Bavaria, and western Bohemia. Chameleons eventually disappeared from the latter three regions, perhaps as a consequence of changing climatic conditions that favored cooler temperatures and lower humidity.  


Distribution of Chameleons


Chameleons occur naturally only in the Old World. Africa (including offshore islands) has the highest concentration of species and subspecies, with all 27 members of the genus Bradypodion, all 14 forms in the genus Rhampholeon, and 59 forms in the genus Chamaeleo, totaling 99 species and subspecies. Forty percent of the world's species inhabit Madagascar and offshore islands, including 19 of the 21 members of the genus Furcifer, all 27 forms in the genus Brookesia, and 28 forms in the genus Calumma, for a total of 73 species and subspecies.


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Distribution by country - Click to enlarge

Distribution by Subfamily

Learn which chameleon subfamilies are found in what parts of the world.  


Distribution by Country

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about the climate, topography, history, and chameleon species found there.  Most information about individual countries was  taken from CIA World FactbookLink will open in a new window.

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