Ok, I have to start the post off by saying this is another animal I've been able to talk, via email, with one of the people responsible for naming it. I think that is one of the more exciting things involved with doing this project, and not something I ever would have thought I'd do. Christopher Raxworthy is a herpetologist, and among other things, he's discovered more than just this chameleon. I don't know how many, but it sounds like he could practically wander into someone's backyard and find a new species! He's the chair of the herpetology department at the American Museum of Natural History. Seriously, some people get giddy because they've got a signed picture from some actor or they got something somebody who plays sports sweat on. Me, I get beyond excited when someone who studies animals replies to my emails. I think that is much more exciting in the grand scheme of things. I mean, can you imagine being able to look through a book on reptiles and say "yep, that's mine, that one too, oh yeah that one as well"? I contacted him because I had only found one side view of the chameleon, and it wasn't a very clear picture. There was no written description I could find that told me much either. Christopher gave me a PDF that had a black and white side view of the whole body which was more clear than the other, but obviously didn't show colours. It also had a side view close-up, again in black and white. The description that was in the PDF talked about the preserved colours, which are very different than live. I could have been lazy and just drawn a side view, it certainly would have been easier, but even though I wouldn't have been copying any of the picture, it would have felt too close to that. Since I'd only seen side views, I couldn't bring myself to do a side view. I really want to respect the owner of every photograph I view when researching these animals. Anyway, Christopher seemed to like it well enough. He doesn't seem the type to gush about anything, or at least not paintings, but he seemed happy enough. I actually did 2 paintings today. The first one he worried might look too much like another type of chameleon (and if anyone would know, he certainly would!), so I changed a couple things and he seemed to feel it was better.
This chameleon is confined to an area of less than 39 square miles in Madagascar. Their range is small already, but habitat loss is a threat to them still. Based on the information the IUCN has, it doesn't appear there is much of anything being done to protect them. Hopefully they will be able to keep the territory they have left. They have large occipital (for some reason my spell check doesn't believe that occipital is a word) lobes that Christopher described as looking a bit like elephant ears. It is easier to see that when you look at them from the side, but it was exactly what I was thinking when I first saw them. The males are the ones with a sort of cute upturned nose, or what is probably more accurately described as a lump on the end of their nose. Their scientific name is Calumma hafahafa. Hafahafa is a Malagasy word that means bizarre or strange. I think it is very cool to use the language of the people from the area when naming the chameleon. I probably would have called it the Calumma Sara or something like that. Maybe after discovering and naming enough species it becomes old hat and you don't feel like naming it after yourself. I've found that I almost always paint animals with their ears facing different ways. Then, when I get to paint an animal that can do that with its eyes, I have to take advantage of that. I can't wiggle my ears, I can barely wink, and writing left handed or even making a check mark is pretty much completely out of the question. I can type with both hands and type quickly, and at one point I was able to play piano, not well but I could play with both hands. For the most part though, the left side of my body is pretty much pointless when it comes to asking it to do something useful. It seems I'm rather envious of creatures that can look or listen to things in any direction they want.