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Chameleon vs. Lizard — What's the Difference?

By Urooj Arif & Maham Liaqat — Updated on April 24, 2024
Chameleons are a distinctive type of lizard known for their color-changing ability and independently mobile eyes; lizards generally don't change color and have fixed-eye directions.
Chameleon vs. Lizard — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Chameleon and Lizard


Key Differences

Chameleons are celebrated for their vivid color changes which serve as communication or camouflage, whereas many lizards maintain a fixed coloration adapted to their environment.
Chameleons possess uniquely structured feet, suited for gripping tightly onto branches, while most lizards have more versatile feet that are adapted to a variety of terrains.
The eyes of chameleons can swivel independently, allowing them to observe two different directions at once, on the other hand, lizards have less flexible vision with eyes that typically provide a more standard field of view.
Chameleons primarily inhabit trees and bushes, using their prehensile tails for balance, whereas lizards can be found in diverse habitats, from deserts to forests, often with tails serving different functions like fat storage or defense.
The diet of chameleons is predominantly insects, caught with their long, sticky tongues, while lizards have varied diets ranging from fruits and vegetables to insects and small mammals, depending on the species.

Comparison Chart

Color Change

Can change colors
Generally do not change colors

Eye Movement

Eyes can move independently
Eyes move in a fixed direction


Mostly arboreal (tree-dwelling)
Varied, including terrestrial


Prehensile, used for grasping
Non-prehensile, various uses


Primarily insectivorous
Omnivorous, varies by species

Compare with Definitions


Features eyes that can look in different directions simultaneously.
The chameleon scanned for insects with its incredible panoramic vision.


Reptiles with scaly skin, belonging to the order Squamata.
The lizard basked in the sun to regulate its body temperature.


A type of lizard known for changing color.
The chameleon shifted from green to brown as it moved from leaf to bark.


Generally has a more standardized vision.
The lizard eyed the insect carefully before making its move.


Uses its long, sticky tongue to capture prey.
The chameleon flicked its tongue to snatch the passing fly.


Many species are ground-dwelling, but some can climb.
The lizard scrambled up the wall to escape the cat.


Typically lives in trees and bushes.
The chameleon spent most of its life among the lush foliage.


Diet varies widely from insects to vegetation.
The lizard enjoyed a varied diet, including leaves and small insects.


Has zygodactylous feet that grasp like hands.
The chameleon’s feet clung tightly to the branches.


Tails can be shed and regenerated in some species.
The lizard detached its tail to distract the predator.


Chameleons or chamaeleons (family Chamaeleonidae) are a distinctive and highly specialized clade of Old World lizards with 202 species described as of June 2015. These species come in a range of colors, and many species have the ability to change color.


Lizards are a widespread group of squamate reptiles, with over 6,000 species, ranging across all continents except Antarctica, as well as most oceanic island chains. The group is paraphyletic as it excludes the snakes and Amphisbaenia; some lizards are more closely related to these two excluded groups than they are to other lizards.


Variant of Chamaeleon.


Any of numerous squamate reptiles often classified in the suborder Lacertilia, characteristically having a scaly elongated body with a tapering tail, four legs, movable eyelids, and external ear openings.


Any of various tropical lizards of the family Chamaeleonidae, chiefly of Africa and Madagascar, having a prehensile tail, eyes that can move independently, and the ability to change color.


Leather made from the skin of one of these reptiles.


An anole lizard, especially Anolis carolinensis of the southeast United States.


Any reptile of the order Squamata that is not a snake or an amphisbaenian, usually having four legs, external ear openings, movable eyelids and a long slender body and tail.


A changeable or inconstant person
"In his testimony, the nominee came off as ... a chameleon of legal philosophy" (Joseph A. Califano, Jr.).


Lizard skin, the skin of these reptiles.


A small to mid-size reptile, of the family Chamaeleonidae, and one of the best known lizard families able to change color and project its long tongue.


(colloquial) An unctuous person.


(figuratively) A person with inconstant behavior; one able to quickly adjust to new circumstances.


(colloquial) A coward.


(physics) A hypothetical scalar particle with a non-linear self-interaction, giving it an effective mass that depends on its environment: the presence of other fields.


(rock paper scissors) A hand forming a "D" shape with the tips of the thumb and index finger touching (a handshape resembling a lizard), that beats paper and Spock and loses to rock and scissors in rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock.


Describing something that changes color.
The wall was covered with a chameleon paint.


(in compounds) A person who idly spends time in a specified place, especially a promiscuous female.
Lounge lizard; lot lizard; beach lizard; truck stop lizard


A lizardlike reptile of the genus Chamæleo, of several species, found in Africa, Asia, and Europe. The skin is covered with fine granulations; it has eyes which can move separately, the tail is prehensile, and the body is much compressed laterally, giving it a high back. It is remarkable for its ability to change the color of its skin to blend with its surroundings.


Any one of the numerous species of reptiles belonging to the order Lacertilia; sometimes, also applied to reptiles of other orders, as the Hatteria.


A person who changes opinions, ideas, or behavior to suit the prevailing social climate; an opportunist.


A piece of rope with thimble or block spliced into one or both of the ends.


A changeable or inconstant person


A piece of timber with a forked end, used in dragging a heavy stone, a log, or the like, from a field.


A faint constellation in the polar region of the southern hemisphere near Apus and Mensa


Relatively long-bodied reptile with usually two pairs of legs and a tapering tail


Lizard of Africa and Madagascar able to change skin color and having a projectile tongue


A man who idles about in the lounges of hotels and bars in search of women who would support him

Common Curiosities

Are all lizards capable of changing color?

No, while some lizards can change color slightly depending on their environment, it is not as pronounced or versatile as in chameleons.

What types of habitats do lizards live in?

Lizards can be found in a variety of habitats including deserts, forests, mountains, and urban areas.

Can all lizards regenerate their tails?

Many lizards can regenerate their tails, but this ability varies among species and is not universal.

How do chameleons change color?

Chameleons change color through specialized cells beneath their skin called chromatophores and iridophores.

Do chameleons have good eyesight?

Yes, chameleons have excellent eyesight, which helps them spot prey and predators from a distance.

What is a chameleon?

A chameleon is a type of lizard known for its ability to change colors and its independently moving eyes.

What do chameleons eat?

Chameleons mostly eat insects, which they catch with their long, sticky tongues.

How do lizards regulate their body temperature?

Lizards are ectothermic, meaning they regulate their body temperature through external means such as sunbathing or seeking shade.

What are the key differences between chameleons and other lizards?

Key differences include their color-changing ability, eye movement, and specialized physical adaptations like their feet and tails.

How do lizards communicate?

Lizards communicate through body movements, postures, and sometimes through sounds or pheromones.

Are lizards social animals?

Most lizards are solitary except during breeding season; however, some species exhibit social behaviors.

What adaptations help lizards survive in the wild?

Lizards have various adaptations such as camouflage, quick reflexes, and some can regenerate lost body parts like tails.

How long can a chameleon's tongue be?

A chameleon's tongue can be up to twice the length of its body.

What is the lifespan of a typical lizard?

The lifespan of lizards varies widely among species, ranging from a few years to over a decade in captivity.

Are chameleons endangered?

Some species of chameleons are considered endangered due to habitat loss and the illegal pet trade.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Co-written by
Maham Liaqat

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