This largest and arguably most magnificent of the Chamaeleonidae inhabits the cool, forested zone of eastern Madagascar and Ile. Ste. Marie. C. parsonii cristifer (q./v.) is restricted to the highland primary montane forests around Perinet (Andasibe). While some populations are under pressure from deforestation, recent reports of some locally abundant populations and colonization of both secondary forests and even plantations, give some cause for guarded optimism. C. p. parsonii has been documented at up to 27.75 inches total length. Unconfirmed reports exist of specimens up to 32 inches. C. p. cristifer is reported to grow to 19 inches. C. parsonii are only moderately aggressive toward conspecifics and tend to be timid toward keepers. Long term breeding success has been achieved by very few keepers and only the most expert keepers should attempt to maintain this most prized (and correspondingly expensive) species.
C. parsonii sports a large, flat casque with occipital lobes. In males, the canthi rostralis (lateral ridges running from above the eyes toward the snout) become more pronounced as they proceed in the anterior direction and become elaborated into two scoop-shaped, warty horns. A small dorsal crest is apparent in C. p. cristifer but lacking in the nominate form of C. p. parsonii. Both lack gular and ventral crests. Scalation is homogeneous except for large plate-like scales adorning the area between the canthi rostralis. The dominant colors are green, turquoise and yellow although juveniles may sport an orange hue. Some animals have yellow or orange eyelids or lips and/or irregular black or gray stripes or blotches. A pale yellow or white spot of variable size may adorn the flanks, particularly in C. p. cristifer which is also reported to have a more bluish/turquoise hue. Females lack the prominent rostral processes of the male. A hemipenial bulge is apparent in males, particularly during the breeding season. C. parsonii is known to lay 30-50 eggs but only lay a single clutch per year.
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