AMONG the reptile species that can be observed in our gardens is one of the most charismatic of the lot, and Spain’s singular arboreal lizard.
The Mediterranean chameleon is the only chameleon species found in Spain, although some authorities believe it was introduced from Africa several hundred years ago.
Whatever its origin, the somewhat lugubrious-looking beast is restricted to Huelva, Cadiz and Malaga, being most abundant in the latter and a common sight in less-developed areas.
With its bizarre, three-toed grip and prehensile tail, the chameleon is perfectly-suited to a life among trees and shrubbery, where it lies in wait for its insect prey, which is ambushed using its ballistic, long, sticky tongue.
Breeding takes place in late summer to early autumn, when females descend to the ground to bury their eggs in sand or loose earth. Up to 45 may be laid, and they remain concealed for 10 to 12 months, with newly hatched babies appearing the following year.
Recent research has shown that chameleons do not change colour for camouflage, but in response to emotional states such as fear or stress, to communicate with other chameleons, and to regulate body temperature.