It's a chameleon, of course!
This week I am on the outskirts of Gilgil, a small town on the eastern "inside" of Kenya's Great Rift Valley. My children go to school neraby, and, much to our surprise, we have found a LOT of chameleons here. We always have an eye out for them, and this week we found one crossing the dirt road that winds towards our house, and one - this one - in the bush right outside our front door. We have also spied chameleons at school, including one that was sniffed out by my daughter's pony, Flashman!
This is a side striped chameleon. It is in the Family Chamaeleonidae and it's scientific name is Chameleo bitaeniatus. Chameleons are famous for their color changes, and this morning this guy looked just like the branch he was resting on. Chameleons change color due to their hormonal or emotional state, and are often camoflaged in relation to the background. They also respond to changes in temperature, light, and shade. Camoflage is an adaptation to the many predators in their habitat, including birds, snakes, and tree-climbing carnivores.
Like all other chameleons, the side striped has eyes that move independently, clawed feet with opposed bundles of toes for climbing, and a telescopic tongue that can be shot at it's prey, which includes grasshoppers and flies.
Here is a video of another side striped catching a fly. Watch closely or you might miss it...
Did you see it?
Back soon with more stories, and get in touch if you have a question!
You can learn more about chameleons from the scientists of the Chameleon Specialist Group:
Chameleon Specialist Group Facebook Page
And here is a cool video clip of one of the smallest chameleons, the Madagascan dwarf chameleon, from David Attenborough's Story of Life series at the BBC:
My go-to reference book for chameleons (and all other reptiles in Africa) is A Field Guide to the Reptiles of East Africa, by Spawls, Howell, Drewes, and Ashe. Maybe your library has it!