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I


t’s a hot, dry day in Madagascar, just off the


coast of Africa. A large panther chameleon sits on a branch, soaking up the warm sunlight. T e lizard’s striped, green skin blends in with the leaves around him. With one of his swiveling eyes, the large


chameleon notices something alarming. A smaller male chameleon is slowly creeping toward him. Immediately, the first chameleon begins


to change. He expands his rib cage and puff s out his throat, making his head and body look bigger. T en he starts to change color. In just a few seconds, his skin changes to


orange then red, and his stripes become more pronounced. Now his vivid colors make him stand out. T e message to his rival is clear: “Stay out of my territory!”


T e smaller male changes color, too. His


skin is also bright red now. T e vibrant colors of both chameleons mean that they are ready to fight. T ey hiss at each other. Soon they are butting heads and biting each other, each trying to claim the area as his own. Eventually the large male overpowers the


smaller chameleon. As the defeated male slinks away, he turns a dark, dull color. His colors tell the victor: “I give up. You are more powerful than I.” T is is one example of how chameleons use


the color of their skin to communicate. It was once believed that chameleons took on the color of whatever they touched. Now scientists know that isn’t the case. Typically, chameleons hang out where their normal colors match their surroundings.


Two colorful chameleons face off, each hoping to scare the other away.


4 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORER


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