Short-horned chameleon (Calumma brevicorne)

Male short-horned chameleon sleeping on branch
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Short-horned chameleon fact file

Short-horned chameleon description

GenusCalumma (1)

The most striking and distinctive features of the short-horned chameleon are its large, ear-like occipital lobes, and the short bony appendage that projects from the snout of the male (2) (4). Although generally greyish in colouration, there is some variation between the sexes and across the species’ range, with the slightly larger males tending to have a lighter coloured head, and some specimens being greener and having blue legs (2) (5). The size of this chameleon also varies from one locality to another, as does the prominence of the dorsal crest, which is more obvious in some individuals than in others (2). The level of variation in this species has led some to hypothesise that it is actually a complex of several closely related species (5) (6). Indeed, several new Columma species were described in 2006 from populations originally considered to be short-horned chameleons (1) (6). The subspecies Columma brevicorne tsarafidyi was described from a single specimen allegedly collected in the Tsarafidyi Forest in 1970, but the most recent taxonomic research suggests it is indistinct from the nominate subspecies C. b. brevicorne (1) (4).

Also known as
elephant-eared chameleon.
Calumma brevicornis, Chamaeleo brevicornis, Chamaeleon brevicornis, Chamaeleon gularis.
Male length: 35 cm (2)

Short-horned chameleon biology

Like other chameleons, the compressed body, spindly limbs, grasping feet and prehensile tail of the short-horned chameleon enable it to deftly negotiate the branches and twigs of its arboreal home (7). Very little is known about this species’ ecology, but in captivity it is known to feed on a wide variety of insects (2). When threatened, it raises its ear-like flaps to increase its apparent size and attacks with an open mouth (5) (7).

Although the reproductive biology of the short-horned chameleon has not been studied in any detail, females have been observed laying 10 to 30 eggs, around 40 days after mating (2).


Short-horned chameleon range

The short-horned chameleon is endemic to Madagascar, where it occurs in the eastern and northern parts of the island (2) (4).


Short-horned chameleon habitat

Found in shrubs and trees on forest edges (2).


Short-horned chameleon status

Listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Short-horned chameleon threats

Prior to the short-horned chameleon’s listing on Appendix II of CITES in 1995, it was exported in considerable numbers for the pet trade (8). With trade now reduced to a minimum, the greatest threat to this species is the loss and degradation of its forest habitat (9). In the 2,000 years since humans arrived on Madagascar, the island nation has lost 90 percent of its forest cover, with firewood collection and slash-and-burn agriculture continuing to have a devastating impact (10).


Short-horned chameleon conservation

The only direct conservation measure currently in place for the short-horned chameleon is its listing on Appendix II of CITES, which serves to prohibit trade in this species without a permit (3). Nonetheless, the conservation of Madagascar’s biodiversity is considered a high conservation priority and this species, like many endemic chameleons, should certainly benefit from existing efforts by international and local conservation groups to protect the island’s forests (9) (10) (11) (12).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For further information on conservation in Madagascar see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



An animal which lives or spends a large amount of time in trees.
Relating to the back or top side of an animal.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Occipital lobes
Flexible flaps extending from the rear of the head of some chameleons.


  1. Raxworthy, C.J. and Nussbaum, R.A. (2006) Six new species of occipital-lobed Calumma chameleons (Squamata: Chamaeleonidae) from montane regions of Madagascar, with a new description and revision of Calumma brevicorne. Copeia, 2006(4): 711-734.
  2. (April, 2009)
  3. CITES (March, 2009)
  4. The Reptile Database (April, 2009)
  5. Bartlett, R.D. and Bartlett, P.P. (1995) Chameleons. Barron's Educational Series Inc, New York.
  6. Boumans, L., Vieites, D.R., Glaw, F. and Vences, M. (2007) Geographical patterns of deep mitochondrial differentiation in widespread Malagasy reptiles. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 45: 822-839.
  7. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptile and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  8. Carpenter, A.I., Rowcliffe, J.M. and Watkinson, A.R. (2004) The dynamics of global trade in chameleons. Biological Conservation, 120: 291-301.
  9. Jenkins, R.K.B., Brady, L.D., Bisoa, M., Rabearivony, J. and Griffiths, R.A. (2003) Forest disturbance and river proximity influence chameleon abundance in Madagascar. Biological Conservation, 109: 407-415.
  10. WWF (April, 2009)
  11. Conservation International (April, 2009)
  12. Madagascar Wildlife Conservation (April, 2009)

Image credit

Male short-horned chameleon sleeping on branch  
Male short-horned chameleon sleeping on branch

© Ingo Arndt /

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