A slight irregularity in the leaves, a gentle rustle…No matter how many times you have seen it, the spotting of a Jackson’s veiled movements is always a source of wonder and delight.
The slow moving Jackson’s is perhaps the most popular reptile on the islands. Often kept as pets, the story of the Jackson’s (Chamaeleo jacksonii) on Hawaii is an interesting one. Not a native of Hawai’i, they are actually considered an invasive species. Brought from Africa to Hawai’i in the 1970s as part of the pet trade, the population quickly took hold in the Hawai’i climate that was similar to their Native East African climate. The population spread to Hawai’i, Mau’i and have been spotted on Kau’ai.
Male Jackson’s have three pronounced horns while The females are easily distinguishable due to the absence of horns, or possessing only very small ones.
The concern about the Jackson’s as an invasive is that their population areas are growing into native forest habitats where they have been found to be surviving on endangered native species. While most people are not initially concerned about endangered snails and bugs, the impact of their loss from native ecosystems could be devastating. The majority of the Jackson’s populations, however, live in disturbed, populated regions and survive primarily on introduced species, causing arguably little harm.
Cool facts about the Jackson’s:
- Chameleons change colors through specialized skin cells called chromatophores which allow them to control skin pigments
- The color change is not primarily for camouflage, but instead for temperature or to communicate moods. Aggressive males will adopt bold colors, receptive mating females will show light colors.
- Jackson’s can also change their shape, elongating to blend in with surrounding vegetation
- The Jackson’s movement is noted for having a “rocking” gait, which some believe is meant to mimic the movement of leaves in a tree
- Their orbital eyes can independently focus and give them a 360° view around their body
- Their tongues are 50% longer than their body and have suction cups to stick to their prey
- Jackson’s give birth to live young instead of depositing eggs, like most other chameleons
- Their tongues are fast and can reach prey in 1/2 of a second
- The Jackson’s prehensile tail does not regenerate if broken and is useful to aid in climbing