Chameleons feet are highly adaptive to different situations with their sharp claws and powerful grip. On the front foot of the Chameleon the outer group of digits contains three toes, and the inner group contains two. However, when it comes to rear feet, the arrangement gets reversed completely. Due to the unique structure of their feet, Chameleons can easily grip narrow tree branches, vines, twigs and rough surfaces. In addition to that, since its feet feature special claws too, holding on to bark during climbing is not a problem for the creature either. It is worth taking note that no other animal is known to have feet like that of Chameleon till now (Chameleons, NWF).
One thing to keep in mind is that their claws do get very sharp, they will shred the leaves of any plant you place in their enclosure and they will make a mess of your hands. You may be tempted to clip or trim the Chameleons nails or claws, don’t. They are arboreal and need those sharp claws to climb.
You will often find your Chameleon hanging in some very strange positions, we have observed several Chameleons who seem to enjoy simply hanging upside down and it’s those sharp claws that are keeping them from falling.
It is also noted that although a number of, scientists sometimes describe Chameleon feet as “zygodactyl” or “didactyl”, none of these two terms truly apply in case of Chameleons (Chameleon, Wikipedia). The main reason why the first term is misleading is because the term was first coined to describe parrot foot, and although Chameleon’s feet resemble that of parrot slightly, the structures are not totally identical. Moreover, when it comes to the other term “didactyl”, since the term only applies in case of creatures having two toes on each foot, the Chameleon does not fit the description since each of its feet contains five toes. However, when it comes down to appearance only, the Chameleon’s foot does look a bit like a set of tongs or pincers, and that is because the toes remain in groups of two or three. The structure can be loosely described as “split into two main fingers” (Chameleons, Sheppard Software).
1) Bishop, Gerry. “Chameleons.” NWF. National Wildlife Federation. Web
2) “Chameleon.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 26 April 2014. Web.
3) “Chameleons.” Sheppard Software. Sheppard Software. Web.
1) Main image supplied by Etai Adam