Chameleons evolved the ability to change colour so as to impress the opposite sex and their rivals, not to blend in to their surroundings.
The popular idea that they evolved to alter hues of their skin colour to be unobtrusive and avoid being eaten is overturned today: they are simply being flashy.
Different chameleon species are able to change different shades which can include pink, blue, red, orange, green, black, brown and yellow.
Now new study published in the journal PLoS Biology shows that the need to rapidly signal to other chameleons, and not the need to hide from predators, has driven the evolution of this colour change trait.
The research, conducted by Dr Devi Stuart-Fox at the University of Melbourne and Adnan Moussalli University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, shows that the dramatic colour changes of South African dwarf chameleons they studied are tailored to aggressively display to competitors and to seduce potential mates.