Chamaeleo (Chamaeleo) dilepis

Scientific name Common name(s) alternate scientific names described by year size brood

Chamaeleo (Chamaeleo) dilepis

Flap Neck Chameleon Chamaeleon dilepis, Chamaeleo planiceps, Chameleon diepas, Chamaeleon dilepas
see a species list of Chamaeleo
Leach 1819 Medium Eggs

Perhaps the most widely distributed of all the Chamaeleonidae, C. dilepis is found throughout southern and central Africa Although it typically inhabits dry forest and savannahs, the breadth of its distribution means that subpopulations may occupy quite heterogeneous habitats. For this reason, it can represent a real challenge to the herpetoculturist who is endeavoring to keep the flap-necked chameleon in conditions that mimic its home region.

In some of subspecies, males lack spurs while in others, spurs are present. The localities of origin for the various subspecies and (where known) the presence or absence of spurs in the males of those subspecies are as follows (courtesy of Lynn Raw):

C. d. dilepis - Congo; spurs in males, head and flaps. Very similar to petersii

C. d. idjwiensis - Zaire (DRC), Lake Kivu, Idjwi Island, Upper Mulinga River. No spurs on males.
C. d. isabellinus - Malawi, Shire Highlands (Mts Zomba and Mulange)
C. d. martensi - Pemba Island, Tanzania.(?) 

C. d. petersii - Mozambique. Spurs present.
C. d. roperi - Kenya, Kilifi, north of Mombasa. No spurs.
C. d. ruspolii - Somalia, Ogaden (This region may now be in Ethiopia depending on who is ahead in the continuing territorial disputes.)
C. d. quilensis - Angola, Cabinda, Rio Quilo, north of the Congo River mouth. Males have spurs.

Total length may reach 12-15 with males being somewhat smaller than females. This species is moderately aggressive toward conspecifics but typically timid toward keepers. In general appearance, C. dilepis is similar to C. gracilis. There is a flattened head with a low casque. The casque of C. dilepis sports a set of large occipital lobes that protrude over the neck thereby giving this animal its common name of "flap-necked chameleon." These flaps can be raised to deter a potential predator or rival. Scalation is largely homogeneous with the exception of conical scales that form low gular, ventral and dorsal crests. Basic coloration is a light green, brown and yellow with a light or dark stripe on the flank extending from the axilla (i.e., "armpits") to the rear legs. A second, smaller and less pronounced stripe may extend from the head to the shoulder. Many small, spots decorate the body. Normally dark, these spots may take on a bright yellow or orange color when sexually receptive, gravid or excited. Large brown or gray splotches may appear on the body. A series of dark rays on the eye turret emanates outwards from the eye itself. Males have larger occipital lobes, higher casques, a hemipenal bulge and spurs on the hind legs.

C. dilepis is one of the most abundant, inexpensive and commonly imported chameleons. They are often bought by inexperienced keepers on impulse. However, WC specimens almost invariably carry heavy parasite loads. The combination of uninformed keepers, the difficulty of matching a specimen with a particular natal location/habitat, heavy parasite loads and a reticence to seek veterinary care until an animal is seriously ill result in the early deaths of the vast majority of imported animals. It is for this reason these reasons that we recommend that only keepers attempt to maintain WC specimens. CB specimens seem to be more hardy.

C. dilepis is oviparous, laying up to 60 eggs in a clutch. Only one clutch is typically laid in a year. The young reach sexual maturity in 9-12 months.

Contributed by E. Pollak

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Le Berre, F. 1994. The New Chameleon Handbook. Barron's Educational Series.
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Spawls, S., Howell, K., Drewes, R., and Ashe, J. 2002. A Field Guide to the Reptiles of East Africa. Academic Press, New York.

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