Do Chameleons Get Fat In The Wild?
The answer is YES, though it is a very rare occurrence. As a rule, chameleons DO NOT get fat.
Which species do NOT get fat?
There are basically two groups of chameleon species that do not get fat as a rule:
I. CIRCUMANNUAL ABUNDANCE: Chameleons from regions, offering all the year enough food (montane regions, tropical lowland rainforests),
II. SEASONAL ACTIVITY: Those species, that are active only in times, when food is abundant and the period with lack of food they either:
1. HIBERNATE - means stay in a limited movement phase, hidden, with metabolism lowered to minimum and basically sleeping (e.g. South African Bradypodion species, the circummediterranean European chameleon, Chamaeleo chamaeleon) or
2. BRUMATE - means stay in a soecific inactive phase in the coldest months of the year (e.g. Calumma parsonii)
3. AESTIVATE - means escape heat and drought while hiding under stones, in holes, crevices or dug in loose substrate to come out at the first rain to come (e.g. some populations of the savanna or desert species like Chamaeleo dilepis, namaquensis; Rieppeleon kerstenii) or
4. DIE - as demonstrated for Furcifer labordi and Chamaeleo calyptratus) due to harsh climate and/or predation and survive as a population and species in the form of eggs incubating in the soil and waiting for the next rainy season to hatch.
Chameleon species of these groups as a rule do not get fat in the wild, because they either do not need to collect reserves fir bad times as there are none (group I) or they invest everything to growth, survival and reproduction and have no time to overeat (group II)
There is a third group of chameleons,
Chameleon species of this group have as a rule a big reproductive potential (lay tents of eggs) and are ecologically plastic - means they can adapt to life under various conditions and even invade new areas (e.g. Furcifer pardalis).
These species, plus species from the Group II, subgroup 4 can under corcumstances, when the food is unusually nitritious (a plague of some moths or butterfiles, of breeding ants or bees) or extremely abundant (simply die local circumstances e.g. around a lake or cadaver of a mammal attracting many insects), can as an rare exception of the rule temporarily overeat and get fat, simply following their programming: eat as much as possible...
I myself have met a wild fat chameleon in the 30+ years of my life with chameleons only once: today...
It was a huge male of Furcifer pardalis in Nosy Be, found in rural area used fir agriculture... what he ate is a secret, but he showed allmsigns of light but evident obesity:
Bulged casqe and cheeksp