1. Meet the Madagascar Mystique Chameleon:
The Mystique Chameleon, like all species in the genus Calumma, is native to the island of Madagascar. The little fellow pictured above is one of three newly-hatched specimens living at the Madagascar Institute for Advanced Herpetology, where scientists hope he and his siblings will become the basis for a breeding program. Biologist Thomasina Moore Fakir discovered Calumma mystique roughly three years ago near Manafiafy Beach, but the phylogenetic research necessary to establish the creature as new species was only completed two months ago.
Like all chameleons, Mystique Chameleons possess chromatophores, which allow them to change the pigmentation of of their skin. What makes Mystique Chameleons unique is the presence of what scientists are calling “plastiophores,” a curious organelle that may possibly make these little lizards the most efficient camouflage artists on the planet.
2. Cells Containing Plastiophores:
Look, it’s all scientific and stuff.
3. Let’s See Those Plastiophores In Action:
9-month-old Mystique Chameleon “Willy” imitates a bunch of bananas. Researchers ran extensive experiments that exposed him to the fruit’s form. After seven weeks, Willy successfully replicated the common Chiquita.
Once the chameleons mastered bananas, the Madagascar Institute for Advanced Herpetology taught their reptiles to imitate multicolored objects with simple shapes. “Lucy,” one of the oldest chameleons at the institute, is seen darting off on the right in the form of a giant lollipop.
Thomasina More Fakir claims that “after the lollipop trials, it was relatively simple to coax the chameleons into mimicking more complex objects like a copy of the Mona Lisa, a fully-functioning microwave, and even other animals.” Pictured above are the three juvenile specimens approximating the likeness of kittens.
Mystique Chameleons show off the range of forms and colors they are capable of imitating.
As of today, only Lucy, once again pictured above, is able to take the form of her namesake, a blue-skinned character from the Marvel Comics series, X-men, but Fakir has high hopes that all of the institute’s chameleons will follow suit by the end of the year.
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