Iguana vs. Chameleon

Iguana vs. Chameleon

Iguana and chameleon are types of reptiles. There are 202 species of chameleon that belong to chameleon family and 2 species of iguana that are part of iguana family. Chameleons can be found in Asia, Africa (mostly on Madagascar) and Europe, while iguanas inhabit Mexico, Central America and Caribbean. Chameleons can survive in various habitats, from rainforests to savannas and deserts, while iguanas prefer tropical forests and areas near the rivers. Many chameleon species and both species of iguana are at risk of extinction due to habitat destruction (deforestation), pollution and uncontrolled hunt (green iguanas are also known as "chicken of the tree"). Iguana and chameleon are distant relatives with many unique features that can facilitate identification of these two groups of animals:

Color of the Skin

Chameleons have finely granulated skin that can be pink, blue, red, orange, turquoise, yellow or green colored. They can change color of the skin to blend with their environment and become "invisible" for predators. Change in color also reflects their current mood and it can be used for communication and thermoregulation. Iguanas are usually green colored, but they can be also bluish, lavender, black or even pink colored.

Size and Morphology of the Body

Chameleons can reach 0.6 to 27 inches in length. They have laterally compressed body, long tail and long, sticky tongue. Many chameleons have crest or horns on top of the head and various nasal protrusions. Iguanas can reach 4 to 6 feet in length (including the tail). They have spiny crest on the back, small, usually colorful scales behind the neck and light-sensing organ, called third eye, on top of the head. Iguanas also have flap of skin under the neck (dewlap), which plays important role in thermoregulation.


Unlike iguanas, chameleons have ability to move their eyes independently and to see two different pictures at the same time. Despite poor mobility of their eyes, iguanas have excellent eyesight and ability to detect colors, shadow and motion with great precision.


Iguanas are herbivore. Their diet is based on fruit, flowers, shoots and leaves. Chameleons are carnivores. Most chameleons are specialized for diet based on insects. Large chameleons hunt and eat small lizards and birds.


Most chameleons are adapted to the life in the trees. Only few species of chameleon spend their life on the solid ground (terrestrial species). Chameleons have zygodactyl feet (5 toes on each foot grouped in two sections) and prehensile tail designed for gripping of narrow branches and safe movement in the trees. Iguanas do not have zygodactyl feet and their tail is not prehensile, but they are equally good at climbing as chameleons. They spend most of their life in the treetops.

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