Ontogenetic habitat shift and risk of cannibalism in the common chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon)

Tammy Keren-Rotem, Amos Bouskila, Eli Geffen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ontogenetic habitat shifts have been documented in numerous fish and amphibians and in some reptiles. Intraspecific competition together with differential predation, prey size, social interactions, size-related thermal requirements, and morphological constraints on movement are often implicated in this ontogenetic habitat separation. In the current study, we combined field observation with experiments in seminatural arenas to test various hypotheses regarding the ontogenetic habitat shift that we have documented in the common chameleon. Juveniles (mean, 1 g) occupied low grasses and the adults (mean, 35 g) were found on bushes and trees. Overlap in habitat use between these two age classes was minimal. Our field experiments showed that juveniles actively avoid the presence of adults by concealment or flight. Adults readily attacked and consumed juveniles, regardless of their own mass. These results suggest that the risk of cannibalism towards juveniles is an important selective force behind the ontogenetic habitat shift observed in the common chameleon and may be important in other species too.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-731
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Apr 2006


  • Cannibalism
  • Common chameleon
  • Ontogenetic habitat shift


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