The National Zoo welcomed four chameleon forest dragons on Nov. 11—the first ever born at the zoo. The babies' parents arrived at the Zoo's Rock Creek facility in June 2009, and the mother laid four eggs while in quarantine. Very little is known about the species, so the little ones are being carefully observed off display. Visitors can, however, still see the adults inside the Reptile Discovery Center.
The name chameleon forest dragon is a little misleading. They are neither chameleons nor dragons, but are a type of lizard called an agamid. Members of this family of lizards are commonly called dragons or dragon lizards. The chameleon forest dragon is so named for its dragon-like triangular head and spiky, leaf-shaped ridge plates on the crown of its head and back.
While they aren't chameleons, the skin of these lizards changes color similar to a chameleon. When they're born, the skin is a bright lime green. As the animals age, the skin either stays green or changes to a brown-tan color depending on the dominant colors occurring in the animal's surroundings. This helps it to stay hidden in either tree leaves or the bark. Native to Indonesia and Malaysia, the lizards will eventually grow up to 12 inches.