(lizard family) appeared around 195 million years ago in the Triassic
Period, 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.