Aquarists thought that Leif, a Meller’s chameleon on view in Waters of the World, was just gaining weight. Then a series of X-rays revealed that she was full of developing eggs – so full, in fact, that “she looked like a gumball machine,” says senior aquarist Stacy Wozniak. About a month ago, the 2-foot-long lizard spent a morning laying 60 oval eggs in the moss at the back of her habitat.
Stacy says 35 to 50 is a typical clutch. He is not sure that the eggs are fertile. Leif has not had a male companion for four years, but that doesn’t mean she couldn’t be a mom. The females of most reptile species can store viable sperm in their oviducts for years. It’s an adaptation that ensures future generations even though encounters with the opposite sex may not coincide with the optimal season or temperature for fertilization to occur within these cold-blooded animals.
While Meller’s chameleons are native to the tropical forests of eastern Africa, this reproductive strategy also works for temperate zone reptiles, which can delay fertilization until it’s warm enough to dig a nest and get the eggs incubating in time to hatch before winter. On the chance that Leif’s eggs are fertile, Stacy put them in an incubator behind the scenes. The incubation period is 70 days, so we’ll get back to you with any results after Thanksgiving.
Posted by Karen Furnweger, web editor