chameleon (kəmēˈlēən, –mēlˈyən), small- to medium-sized lizard of the family Chamaeleonidae. More than 150 species are found in sub-Saharan Africa, with a few in S Europe and S Asia. The so-called common chameleon, Chamaeleo chamaeleon, is found around the Mediterranean.
Chameleons have laterally flattened bodies and bulging, independently rotating eyes. They are variously ornamented with crests, horns, and spines. The toes are united into one bunch on either side of the foot, forming a pair of grasping tongs. Chameleons feed on small animals, chiefly insects, and they are unique among lizards in possessing very long, sticky tongues with which they capture their prey. Typical chameleons (members of the genus Chamaeleo) are arboreal and have long, prehensile tails. They move very slowly, with a rocking movement, grasping a branch with feet and tail.
The changes in skin color, seen in certain other lizards as well, are under hormonal and nervous control. They are not affected by the color of the background but by stimuli such as light, temperature, and emotion, and are used most dramatically in contests between rivals and to attract a mate. However, the shades of brown, gray, and green assumed by chameleons do generally blend with the forest surroundings.
The American chameleon, or anole (Anolis carolinensis), is not a true chameleon, but a small lizard of the iguana family, found in the SE United States and noted for its color changes. True chameleons are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Reptilia, order Squamata, family Chamaeleonidae.
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Chameleon (pop culture)
The Chameleon is one of Spider-Man's longstanding villains. As his name suggests, he is a master of deceit and disguise and one of Spidey's most illusive enemies. He was introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1 #1 (1963), penned by Stan Lee and illustrated by Steve Ditko, although the creative team never gave Chameleon an alter ego or explained his background in detail. Years later, writer J. M. DeMatteis established the Chameleon as Russian Dmitri Smerdyakov, after a character in Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, who as a boy was servant and half-brother to the abusive Kraven the Hunter. Eventually, Smerdyakov immigrated to the United States, adopting the Chameleon identity and impersonating Spider-Man during his first crime spree. Chameleon eventually learned Spider-Man's secret identity and has attacked him through his family and friends, including Parker's wife, Mary Jane Watson. The Chameleon first wore a blank face-mask to conceal his identity, a stylistic device that was a forerunner to that of the hero the Question created by Ditko for Charlton Comics after his Amazing Spider-Man run. Originally, the Chameleon used only makeup and costumes to impersonate his victims. Later, he obtained holographic technology that allowed him to alter his appearance. Later still, the Chameleon ingested an experimental serum that rendered his skin malleable and turned his face virtually featureless, like his original mask. He began wearing costumes made of “memory material” that can be altered by electrical impulses to resemble other people's clothing. After the suicide of the original Kraven in 1987, the Chameleon sought vengeance on Spider-Man but began losing his sanity. Ultimately the Chameleon attempted to commit suicide by throwing himself off a bridge (in Webspinners #12, 1999), somehow surviving and ending up in an insane asylum. Since then he joined the Green Goblin's team of supervillains, the Sinister Twelve (2005). He appeared briefly in TV animation in the “Hulk” episode of the series The Marvel Super- Heroes (1966) and in the Spider-Man series (1994–1998). Rumors that the Chameleon would appear in the live-action film Spider-Man 3 swept fandom in mid-2005 but proved unfounded.
The Supervillain Book: The Evil Side of Comics and Hollywood © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The common name for about 80 species of small to medium-size lizards composing the family Chamaeleontidae.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
lizard able to change the color of its skin to match brown or green surroundings; has come to mean ‘inconstant person.’ [Western Culture: Misc.]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
any lizard of the family Chamaeleontidae of Africa and Madagascar, having long slender legs, a prehensile tail and tongue, and the ability to change colour
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005