Chameleons are creatures that possess the ability to camouflage themselves. They can change the color of their body using the nanocrystals present in their skin; they tune the nano- crystals to reflect light differently, which in turn change their skin color.
The panther chameleon, a chameleon type native only to Madagascar, is known for having the exceptional disguising ability. Those creatures were identified way back in 1829. Now, a modern team of researchers led by Prof Michel Milinkovitch is saying that the panther chameleons that were previously identified as a single species includes 11 different species of the creature. Prof. Milinkovitch teaches biophysics, evolution and genetics at the University of Geneva.
The team under Prof Milinkovitch and University of Antananarivo’s Achille Raselimanana, the two groups involved in the above mentioned study, were not searching for new chameleon species. They conducted the study to identify genetic keys that might provide them with information on the procedure adopted by the panther chameleons for achieving its amazingly broad color palette.
There are some panther chameleons that are blue in color; also, these chameleons can also be green, orange or red. To date, it was believed that the colorations of these creatures tend to vary according to the region they reside in.
The research team traveled from the east to the west of Madagascar and collected blood samples from as many as 324 chameleons. The team also captured photographs of these 324 chameleons.
The next step of the study involved sequencing of the nuclear and mitochondrial DNA of each of the chameleons. The analysis was done based on the hypothesis that suggested that pattern and color of these creatures are regional.
The analysis presented some surprising facts to the researchers; they came to know that color and pattern of panther chameleons changed according to the genetic lineage of each species of the creature. What’s more, there were very little interbreeding among these chameleon species.
It’s true that color and pattern also varied according to the region the creatures live in; however, that only indicates that each specified location was home to a particular species of panther chameleon. The findings of this study will force experts to modify the conservation plans adopted for panther chameleons. They will now need to manage each species of the creature separately.