The Panther Chameleon is Actually 11 Distinct Species

May 26, 2015

The panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) is actually 11 different species, according to a new study published in the journal Molecular Ecology

Michel Milinkovitch, a professor of genetics, evolution, and biophysics at the University of Geneva along with colleagues in Madagascar say that the panther chameleon is actually 11 different species. Milinkovitch conducted a study along with professor Achille Raselimanana of Madagascar's University of Antananarivo to try and determine the genetic keys behind the massive color palette of the panther chameleon. They analyzed blood samples from 324 individual panther chameleons, documenting each via color photographs. The DNA of each panther chameleon was sequenced and analyzed in a lab with hopes that the dominant colors would match that of the geographic location in which the reptiles were found. 

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panther chameleon

Michel Milinkovitch

The panther chameleon is actually 11 different species.

The DNA analysis determined that the color difference between the lizards efficiently predicted their genetic lineage, which confirmed that the geographic locations of where the lizards were found resulted in differing species. They also determined that the 11 species do not interbreed.

panther chameleon

Michel Milinkovitch

The panther chameleon has a massive color palette.

The study points to the importance of individual conservation management of each of the 11 species of panther chameleon on Madagascar, the only place in thee world where the panther chameleon lives in the wild. 

John B. Virata keeps a western hognose snake, a ball python, two corn snakes, a king snake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased at the Pet Place in Westminster, CA for $5. His first pet reptile was a green anole that arrived in a small box via mail order. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata 


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