Gravidity and egg deposition

Calumma parsonii yellow giant aus Vohimana
Calumma brevicorne
Furcifer pardalis weiblich, Ankaramibe
Furcifer pardalis aus Ankaramibe, 2017 Weibchen

Gravidity

A successful mating between female and male of a chameleon species is followed by gravidity. Right after mating, the female usually does not want to be with the male anymore. In Madagascar, mating and gravidity fall within the rainy season, so depending on the season somewhen between October and April. In captivity outside Madagascar, it is possible that mating and gravidity take place outside these months, too. The length of gravidity varies between the different chameleon species. You can find data about the length under our species descriptions in “chameleons and habitat data”. In many chameleon species, females soon show a certain gravidity coloration which is very different from their normal coloration. See some examples below.

Already before mating, follicles have been growing on the female’s ovaries. At the time of ovulation, the follicles rupture and let the egg cells escape. The fallopian tube receives the egg cells. Fertilization of the female egg cells with male sperms takes place shortly after mating right inside the fallopian tube. The epithelium of both tubes builds the egg membranes. After a few days, lime begins to deposit on the egg membranes. This process continues until the egg membrane is completely covered by a thin lime shell. In chameleons, eggs are soft-shelled and not as hard as in birds or tortoises.

Concerning feeding, females may get a little more food during the last third of gravidity. Before gravidity, females should not be fed too much since this may lead to huge clutches that weaken the female enormously. During the whole gravidity, you have to take special care for supplementation. The vitamin content of the eggs directly depends on the vitamin supply of the mother. Additionally, the female needs more calcium during gravidity to build the eggshells. Studies prove that an ideal supply of the mother with UV-B radiation improves the hatching success of a clutch.

Gestation period

Females of different chameleon species are gravid for different lengths of time. The following table provides an overview of gravidity lengths.

Species Gestation period Source
Brookesia stumpffi 40 days Schmidt et al. 1989
Brookesia superciliaris 45 days Lippe 1994
Brookesia thieli 31 days Flamme 2005
Calumma globifer 90-120 days Weiß 2005
Calumma parsonii parsonii 152-243 days own experience
Furcifer balteatus 90-120 days Althaus et al. 2009
Furcifer lateralis 40-45 days
30-50 days
30-52 days
30 days
own experience
Schmidt et al. 1987
Schmidt 2001
Schwarz 2008
Furcifer minor 64 days Althaus 2008
Furcifer oustaleti 31-45 days Abate 1999
Furcifer pardalis

 

30-40 days
31-45 days
28-45 days
28 days
19 days
own experience
Schmidt 1988
Schmidt 1989
Deckers 2006
Eckhardt 2018
Furcifer verrucosus 28-42 days
56-70 days
50-60 days
Abate et al. 1995
Schneider et al. 2002
Starke-Huber 2007

 

Test tunnels and egg-laying

A Furcifer pardalis female lays her eggs in the sand, near Diego Suarez

It needs some preparation before a chameleon female can lay her eggs without problems. The female should be inside a terrarium with deep soil of 20 to 30 cm in height. A mixture of sand and forest soil has proven to work especially well for burrowing. During the last days of gravidity, the soil should always be kept humid, because it is easier to dig in the humid ground. Most females stop eating shortly before egg-laying. Plants rooting directly in the soil are very attractive for chameleon females. Heat mats under the soil are rather counterproductive – the soil becoming warmer in the depth may disturb the female while burrowing or in the worst case, prevent her from laying eggs at all.

The same place one day later: You can hardly recognize that there are eggs below

Better place a privacy screen in front of the cage when the female begins roaming around the bottom of the terrarium – she is looking for a suitable place for her eggs. The less you disturb the female, the fewer problems she has in laying eggs. Especially young and inexperienced females dig test tunnels some days for the actual tunnel for the eggs. They dig burrows but do not lay eggs yet. This behavior is normal and disappears with increasing age and increasing numbers of gravidities. Has the female finally found the right place – they love to dig between roots – she digs a deep hole. If deep enough, she turns around, and usually, only the heads look out the burrow while she lays her eggs one by one. After egg deposition, the female turns around again to put the soil back in place carefully. She even puts leaves on top of the burrow so you cannot recognize where she dug afterward. This behavior is part of the egg-laying process, so do not disturb the female until she has finished her works completely and climbs back up on branches. If you have carefully peeked into the terrarium before, you however already know where she laid her eggs.

From some species such as Furcifer lateralis it is known that some females let eggs drop from branches instead of digging a hole. We have never watched such behavior in Madagascar yet. Leaf chameleons (Brookesia ssp.) usually lay only one or two eggs and they do not bury them, but hide them under pieces of wood and foliage. Every egg laying is very exhausting for a chameleon female. So please grant your female peace and silence after successful egg deposition. Offer supplemented feeders and a working dripper. The chameleon female does not care for her offspring after egg laying.

If a female stops digging completely but has not laid eggs or if the female becomes unusually calm or even closes her eyes during the day, you will need to see a vet as soon as possible. Your female may be egg-bound which will end deadly if left untreated. Please do not hesitate and act quickly.

It is good to know that females may build eggs even without mating. These eggs are infertile. Many Malagasy chameleons are able to “store” semen after one single mating and thus are able to build more fertile clutches without more mating. In these cases, the number of fertile eggs decreases with an increasing number of clutches. Please dig out clutches quickly after egg deposition to move them into incubators. You can find more information about the incubation of chameleon eggs in this article.

Clutch size

In terraristics, clutch sizes are usually somewhat larger than in nature because the females can be very well cared for during pregnancy. In nature, they depend on the rainy season, which is more intense or shorter depending on the year. Accordingly, the food supply on Madagascar can change – and with it the possibility of the female to mate and produce eggs. The following table gives an overview of the clutch sizes of Madagascan chameleon species known so far.

Brookesia desperata 2 eggs Glaw et al. 2012 Furcifer labordi 8 eggs Kuijpers 1993
Brookesia exarmata 2 eggs Schimmenti et al. 1996  Furcifer lateralis 10-15 eggs
4-23 eggs
6-11 eggs
6-33 eggs
own experience
Schmidt 2001
Schmidt 1985
Schmidt et al. 1987
Brookesia minima 2 eggs Schmidt 1988 Furcifer major 10-16 eggs
8-23 eggs
Böhle 1998 
Rutsch 2006
Brookesia stumpffi 3-5 eggs
2 eggs
Schmidt et al. 1989
Raxworthy 1991
Furcifer minor 14 eggs
9 eggs
own experience
Althaus 2008
Brookesia superciliaris 4 eggs Lippe 1994 Furcifer oustaleti up to 61 eggs
17-72 eggs
Abate 1999
Smith et al. 2016
Brookesia thieli 3-4 eggs Flamme 2005 Furcifer pardalis 15-35 eggs
12-50 eggs
16 eggs
16-44 eggs
22 eggs
16-29 eggs
24 eggs
own experience
Ferguson et al. 1994
Deckers 2006
Schmidt 1988
Raxworthy 1991
Lutzmann 2006
Eckhardt 2018
Brookesia tristis 2 eggs Glaw et al. 2012  Furcifer timoni 10-14 eggs Glaw et al. 2009
Calumma globifer 15-30 eggs Weiß 2005 Furcifer verrucosus up to 30 eggs
18-26 eggs
Schneider et al. 2002
Starke-Huber 2007
Calumma parsonii parsonii 24-45 eggs
35 eggs
20-31 eggs
69 eggs
own experience
Kalisch 1994
Tröger 1997
Laube et al. 2020
Furcifer voeltzkowi 7 eggs Glaw et al. 2020

 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove