Illustrated Glossary
by Edward I. Pollak, Ph.D.
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Acrodont dentition. The dentitional type of lizards in which the teeth are fused onto the dorsal surface of the jawbone.

Aestivation. See estivation.

Agonistic. Referring to any behaviors seen during aggressive encounters, including both aggressive and submissive behaviors.

Allopatric. Living in different geographical regions. Opposite of sympatric.

Annulated. Having ringed segments.

Anterior. Toward the front of the body. The opposite of "posterior."

Arboreal. Living in trees.

Axilla. Armpit.

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Baytril. Brand name of enroflaxacin. A member of the fluoroquinolone class of antibiotics. Its counterpart for human use is ciprofloxacin. A broad spectum antibiotic active against many bacterial types including Pseudomonas (q.v.).

Bradypodion. A genus of the subfamily Chamaeleoninae endemic to Africa.

Brookesia. A genus of the subfamily Brookesiinae endemic to Madagascar.

Brookesiinae. The subfamily of the Chamaeleonidae comprised of the so-called false chameleons. The Brookesiinae include two genera, Brookesia and Rhampholeon.  

Brumation. A state similar to hibernation in which a reptile dramatically reduces its food intake although it may still drink. Both hibernation an d brumation are a response to cold weather but in brumation the animal responds does not exhibit the extreme torpor of a hibernating animal.

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Calcified. Consisting of or containing calcium carbonate.

Calumma. A genus of the subfamily Chamaeleoninae endemic to Madagascar.

Caudal. Toward the tail.

Canthus. Plural, canthi. The corner of the eye, where the eyelids meet.

Canthus rostralis. The angle of the head from the tip of the snout to the anterior end of the eyebrow which separates the dorsum of the head from the side of the snout. If this area forms a sharp angle it is referred to as the canthal ridge. The canthus rostralis is the most anterior portion of the lateral crest (q.v.)

Casque. A helmet-like structure on the head.

Caudal. Toward the tail.

Cervical. Pertaining to the neck.

Chamaeleo. A genus of the subfamily Chamaeleoninae endemic principally to Africa although a very few species are known to inhabit regions of southern Europe, and western and southern Asia. 

Chamaeleonidae.  The family to which all Old World chameleons belong.  The Chamaeonidae includes two subfamilies, the true chameleons (Chamaeleoninae) and the false chameleons (Brookesiinae), q.v. 

Chamaeleoninae.  The subfamily of the Chamaeleonidae that is comprised of the four genera of true chameleons.  The four genera are Bradypodion, Calumma, Chamaeleo, and Furcifer.  

Chromatophore. A specialized, pigment containing cell in the outer laters of the skin.

Cloaca. The common chamber into which the intestinal, urinary and reproductive ducts discharge their contents, opening to the outside through the anus.

Coccidia. A group of protozoan parasites.

Concave. Bent inwards, rounded.

Conical scales. Cone-shaped scales.

Conspecifics. Members of the same species.

Convex. Bent outwards, rounded.

Crenate. Having a scalloped edge.

Crenulate. Minutely crenate.

Crests. Ridges on the head and body often composed of highly modified scales or modified skin (in Bradypodion species).

Cryptic. Camouflaged or hidden.

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Denticulate. Tooth-like.

Distal. Farther from the center of the body. (e.g., the toes are distal to the ankle which is distal to the knee.)

Diurnal. Active during the day.

Dorsal. An anatomical direction meaning "toward the back (upper) surface of the body (i.e., toward the region of the spinal cord). Dorsal is the opposite of ventral (toward the be lly)

Dorsal crest. A ridge of highly modified (often conical) scales along the back.

Dorsum. The back. The (dorsal) surface of the body opposite the ventral surface (belly).

Dysecdysis. Abnormal or prolonged shedding.  Often a symptom of poor health, inadequate hydration, too low humidity, or any number of other husbandry-related problems. 

Dystocia. Difficulty in egg-laying. Also referred to as "egg binding." This represents a serious medical condition requiring prompt veterinary attention.

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Ectothermic. Relying on external heat sources such as the sun to raise body temperature. Poikilothermic (q.v.)

Edema. (alt. oedema.) A pathological accumulation of excess fluid in extracellular spaces and body cavities. (see "gular edema)

Endemic Native to and typically present in a particular region.

Egg binding. See "dystocia."

Eye turrets. A common (non-scientific) term referring to the remarkable eye of the chameleon which is capable of scanning 180 degrees of the visual field.

Estivation. (alt. aestivation) A reduction in physiological activity that occurs in response to drought of high temperatures. Similar to hibernation or brumation (q.v. ).

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Filaria. A group of nematode parasites.

Flagellates. Protozoans with one or more whip-like extensions.

Furcifer. A genus of the subfamily Chamaeleoninae endemic to Madagascar

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Genus. Plural genera. Groups of related species. The system of Klaver and Boehme (1997) used on this web site recognizes the chameleon genera of Bradypodion, Brookesia, Calumma, Furcifer, Chamaeleo, and Rhampholeon. . In addition, the genus Chamaeleo has two subgenera, Chamaeleo and Trioceros. See also, "taxonomy."

Gout. A disease caused by excessive uric acid (urate) build-up in blood and extracellular spaces. The symptoms of gout are most obvious when they occcur in limb joints.

Granular scales. Small, convex, non-overlapping scales, typically with a pebbled appearance.

Gravid. Carrying fertilized eggs or young. Pregnant.

Gular. Pertaining to or located on the throat or ventral surface of the neck.

Gular crest. Ridge of modified scales along the ventral surface of the throat and chin.

Gular edema. Accumulation of fluid in the region of the throat and neck. 

Gular striations. Striped patterns on the gular region. Also referred to as interstitial striations.

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Hemipenal bulge. The bulge at the base (proximal end) of the tail base due to the presence of the male;s hemipenes. The presence or absence of a hemipenal bulge is often used to sex animals in species that are otherwise sexually monomorphic (q.v.).

Hemipenes. The paired sex (intromittent) organs of male reptiles including snakes and lizards. The hemipenis actually unrolls (inside out) during tumescence. When fully erect it may have various types of spines and hooks on its outer surface.

Herpetofauna. The reptiles and amphibians of a given region.

Heterogeneous scalation (or squamation). Covered with several different types of scales.

Homogeneous scalation (or squamation). Covered primarily with scales of the same type.

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Interstititial. Occurring in the spaces between cells. Alternately, it may refer to the skin between adjacent scales.

Interstitial striations. See gular striations.

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Jacobson's organ. See vomeronasal organ.
Keratin. A tough sulphur-protein present in reptile scales as well as in the feathers of birds and fur, skin, hooves, etc. of mammals.

Keratinous. Containing keratin.

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Larynx.  The structure of muscle and cartilage at the upper end of the trachea. 

Lateral. Pertaining to the side of the body. The opposite of medial.

Lateral crest. A ridge on the head extending from the casque, over the eye, and projecting toward the rostrum (snout). The lateral crest is composed of three sections, the anterior portion (rostral crest or canthus rostralis), the section above the eye (orbital crest or canthus supraorbitalis) and the posterior portion (the actual lateral crest or canthus lateralis). See also canthus rostralis.

Lenticular scales. Lens-shaped scales.

Lentiform. Lens-shaped (q.v.).

Lobes. Segements of the casque (q.v.).

Lumbar. Pertaining to the lower back.

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Metabolic bone disease (MBD). A softening of bones caused by a low ratio of Calcium:Phosphorus. It may be caused by any number of factors but the most common in chameleons include inadequate nutrition, inadequate vitamin D3 and inadequate UVB lighting (which is necessary for vitamin D3 production).

Medial. Pertaining to the midline of the body. The opposite of ÒlateralÓ.

Mimesis. Imitation. In chameleons, mimicry typically refers to the mimicking of a background. In other animals it often refers to the mimicking of other (often poisonous) species.

Montane. Living in cool, moist, mountainous regions.

Morph. A group of animals from a particular geographical region having distinctive physical characteristics that distinguish them from conspecifics. Some species, such as Furficer pardalis are noted for the large number of colorful morphs that occur in differing geographic locations.

Morphology. The structure or form of an organ or organism. Also, the study of such structures and forms.

Mouth rot. Bacterial infection of the oral cavity marked by caseous (cheese-like) deposits. It may sometimes invol ve bone and cartilage (osteomyelitis). Sometimes referred to as "canker."

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Nasal glands. Glands in the nostrils that secrete excess salt. Most noticeable in species which occupy arid habitats or (in non-chameleon species) marine habitats.

Nematodes. Round worms.

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Occipital. Toward the back of the head.

Occipital lobes (or flaps). Extensions of the casque from the back of the head. In some species, these flaps may be raised during agonistic and sexual displays.

Oviparous. Egg-laying (as opposed to giving birth to live young).

Oviposition. The act of egg laying.

Ovoviviparous. Producing eggs with well developed shells that then hatch within the body of the mother.

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Parietal. Pertaining to the bones which form the sides and top of the skull.

Parietal crest. A ridge along the midline of the casque or head. (see "crests.")

Plate-like scales. Enlarged, flat scales.

Poikilotherm. Ectothermic (q.v.. A "cold-blooded" animal in which body temperature can only be adjusted by behavioral mechanisms such as basking. This is in contrast to homeotherms (warm-blooded" animals such as birds and mammals) who may adjust their body temperatures by both behavioral and physiological means (e.g., shivering, sweating).

Posterior. Toward the rear of the body. The opposite of "anterior."

Prehensile. Being able to grasp objects.

Preocular horn. An annulated horn protruding from the area between the eyes.

Pseudomonas. A genus of bacteria of the family Pseudomonadaceae.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa. blue-pus bacillus. a species commonly affecting chameleons. Found in feces, sinuses and suppurating wounds.

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Rhampholeon. A genus of the subfamily Brookesiinae endemic to east Africa.

Rostral. Literally, "toward the beak." Toward the snout of the animal.

Rostral horn. An annulated horn protruding from the the anterior tip of the snout.

Rostral process. Protrusion from the snout. Typically, an extension of the canthus rostralis (q.v.). usually larger in males.

Rostrum. Literally, "beak." The most anterior part of the head. The snout.

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Savanna. (alt. savannah). A trop ical or subtropical grassy plain with no (or only scattered) trees and subject to a highly seasonal pattern of rainfall.

Scalation. Pattern of scales on the body or on a specific part of the body.

Serrated. Having a saw-like appearance.

Sexual dimorphism. The situation in which males and females have two distinctly different forms. The term may apply to anatomical structures such as rostral processes or body size or to behaviors.

Sexual monomorphism. The situation in which males and females are similar in appearance and/or behavior.

Spatulate. Shaped like a spatula.

Species. A group of animals that are capable of interbreeding and producing fully viable offspring.

Spinose. Sharp, pointed shape like that of a thorn.

Squamation. The arrangement of scales. Scalation (q.v.).

Striations. Stripes.

Subspecies. Members of a spe cies which, though capable of interbreeding with other populations, are isolated from conspecifics and which have physical characteristics that give them a distinctive appearance. See also "morph."

Sympatric. Occupying the same geographical area. Opposite of allopatric.

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Tarsal spur. A small projection on the posterior part of the hind leg just above the ankle. In some species the presence or absence of the tarsal spur is diagnostic of the animal's sex.

Taxonomy. The science of naming and classifying organisms into evolutionarily meaningful groupings. From broader to more specific, the major categories are kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species.

Temporal glands. Small whitish glands of unknown function in the corners of the mouth of chameleons.

Terrestrial. Ground-dwelling.

Thermoregulation. The ability to regulate body temperature. See poikilotherm and homeotherm.

Thoracic. Pertaining to the chest (thorax).

Thermoregulation. Adjusting of bo dy temperature.

Transverse. Cross-wise. Diagonal.

Trioceros.  A subgenus of the Chamaeleo.  Despite the name (Tri-three; ceros-horn), only a few members of this subgenus have 3 horns (e.g., C. jacksonii, C. johnstoni, C. oweni, C. deremensis).  Other species of Trioceros may have 0, 1, 2, 4 or more "horns."  

Tubercular scales. Small, knob-like scales. See also "granular scales."

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Ventral. Toward the belly or underside of the animal.

Ventral crest. A ridge of modified (often conical) scales along the medial aspect of the belly. This crest is often contiguous with a gular crest (q.v.).

Ventrum. T he underside of the body. The belly.

Viviparous. Giving birth to live young. This term is usually reserved for groups such as mammals who nurture the young within the body by means of a placenta. The term ovoviviparous (q.v.) is typically used for animals incubate eggs within the body without benefit of a placenta. However, many intermediate cases exist and the distinction between viviparity and ovoviviparity is often academic.

Vomeronasal organ. Also known as Jacobson;s organ (q.v.). A chemosensory organ in the roof of the mouth of many vertebrates including reptiles and mammals. It is often thought of as a supplemental olfactory system that specializes in the detection of pheromones.

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Hickman, C. P. Sr., Hickman, C. P. Jr., Hickman, F. M., and Roberts, L. S. 1979. Int egrated Principles of Zoology. C. V. Mosby Co. St. Louis.

Martin, J. 1992. Masters of Disguise: A Natural History of Chameleons. Facts on File, Inc. New York.

Necas, P. 1999. Chameleons: Nature;s Hidden Jewels. Krieger Publishing Co. Malabar, FL.

Peters, J. A. 1964. Dictionary of Herpetology. Hafner Publishing Company, New York.

Stedman;s Medical Dictionary. 1966. The Williams and Wilkins Co. Baltimore.

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