The contextual separation of lateral white line patterns in chameleons

Tammy Keren-Rotem, Uri Roll, Amos Bouskila, Eli Geffen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While many animals display different colour patterns that signal different messages, some species use various tactics to separate between colour and pattern displays. The common chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) is capable of rapidly changing and separating among displays of colour patterns and ornaments. We used chameleons to study the contextual role of separation among colour and pattern displays. Specifically, we studied the predominant white badge, which is composed of multiple parts, during different seasons and in different social contexts. We hypothesized that the badge contains important information about the sender and, therefore, would be present during important social contexts. We carried out a series of trials to document the presence/absence of the badge and found that the badge is individually specific and reflects body size. We also revealed that the badge remained fixed throughout other body colour changes, but was replaced by other colour patterns during mating behaviour. During social encounters, additional dark patches delineating the badge appeared, presumably amplifying its signal. Thus, we suggest that the badge constitutes an important feature in intraspecific communication, and is possibly employed to display quality. However, the replacement of the badge by other displays during courtship suggests that during important social events like mating, chameleons transmit exclusive information that is not broadcast by the badge. Our findings demonstrate the importance of separation between colour patterns, and the alternative use of intraspecific colour patterns for specific social contexts in chameleons.

Original languageEnglish
Article number171235
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 31 Jan 2018


  • Badge
  • Dual-function badge
  • Ornament
  • Patch
  • Social display
  • Visual signalling


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