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Africa is almost the only country that does not produce1 the stag, but then it produces the chameleon,2 although it is much more commonly met with in India. Its figure and size are that of a lizard, only that its legs are straight and longer. Its sides unite under its belly, as in fishes, and its spine projects in a similar manner. Its muzzle is not unlike the snout of a small hog, so far as in so small an animal it can be. Its tail is very long, and becomes smaller towards the end, coiling up in folds like that of the viper. It has hooked claws, and a slow movement like that of the tortoise; its body is rough like that of the crocodile; its eyes are deep sunk in the orbits, placed very near each other, very large, and of the same colour as the body. It never closes them, and when the animal looks round, it does so, not by the motion of the pupil, but of the white of the eye.3 It always holds the head upright and the mouth open, and is the only animal which receives nourishment neither by meat nor drink, nor anything else, but from the air alone.4 Towards the end of the dog-days5 it is fierce, but at other times quite harmless. The nature of its colour, too, is very remarkable, for it is continually changing; its eyes, its tail, and its whole body always assuming the colour of whatever object is nearest, with the exception of white and red.6 After death, it becomes of a pale colour. It has a little flesh about the head, the jaws, and the root of the tail, but none whatever on the rest of the body. It has no blood whatever, except in the heart and about the eyes, and its entrails are without a spleen.7 It conceals itself during the winter months, just like the lizard.

1 This fact is confirmed by Cuvier, who observes, that it is the more remarkable that Africa should be without stags, as it abounds in gazelles of all forms and colours. He supposes that those travellers, who affirm that they have seen stags in this country, had really met with gazelles, which they mistook for those animals; Ajasson, vol. vi. p. 451; Lemaire, vol. iii. p. 453.—B

2 Cuvier remarks, that Pliny's account of the chameleon appears to be taken from Aristotle, Hist. Anim. B. ii c. 11, but that it is less correct. He notices Aristotle's account of the eye, which is more accurately given than the account of Pliny; Ajasson, vol. vi. pp. 451, 452; Lemaire, vol. iii. p. 454.—B. The chameleon receives its name from the Greek χαμαὶ λέων, "the lion on the ground."

3 See B. xi. c. 55.

4 One of those popular errors which have descended from the ancients to our times; the chameleon feeds on insects, which it seizes by means of its long flexible tongue; the quantity of food which it requires appears, however, to be small in proportion to its bulk.—B.

5 "Circa caprificos." Some commentators would understand this in reference to the wild fig-tree, and take it to mean that the animal is more furious when in its vicinity. The conjecture of Hardouin, however, seems more reasonable. He takes "caprificos" to mean the same as the "caprificialis dies," mentioned in B. xi. c. 15, as being sacred to Vulcan, and falling towards the end of the dog-days.

6 This is another of the erroneous opinions respecting the chameleon, which has been very generally adopted. It forms the basis of Merrick's popular poem of the Chameleon. The animal, indeed, assumes various shades or tints, but the changes depend upon internal or constitutional causes, not any external object. Ælian, Anim. Nat. B. ii. c. 14, refers to the change of colour, but does not allude to its colour having any connection with that of the object with which it comes in contact.—B.

7 The quantity of muscular fibre and blood in the chameleon is no doubt small in proportion to the bulk of the animal, although not much less than in other animals of the same natural order; its spleen is very minute, as Cuvier says, not larger than the seed of a lentil.—B.

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