This is the incredible moment a female chameleon erupts in glorious color in a poignant final display before its death.
In the stunning footage which was captured for the new PBS documentary series Big Little Journeys, the skin of a female labord’s chameleon (Furcifer labordi) is seen bursting into “chaotic technicolor patterns” in the last dying moments of its short life.
“In her last moments, her skin erupts with color, as if uttering her last words,” narrator Bumper Robinson says in a clip for PBS‘ new documentary series.
‘The Final Colorful Throes of Death’
According to Live Science, the documentary makers filmed the footage of the female chamelon in the final colorful throes of death in the wild in Kirindy Forest in western Madagascar using time-lapse photography.
The filmmakers followed the female Labord’s chameleon as she laid her eggs and covered them with sand to protect them from the harsh weather extremes of a dry season in Madagascar.
“The females put all their energy into producing eggs that need to get through the long drought while underground,” series producer Valeria Fabbri-Kennedy and scientist Chris Raxworthy, a herpetologist at the American Museum of Natural History, told Live Science.
“They die within just a few hours of having laid them, as they have few resources left.”
The team had hoped to capture the full life cycle of this little-known species. However, the filmmakers realized that one female chameleon “had slowed and seemed to be fading.”
The documentary makers set up a time-lapse camera, and when they returned two hours later, they found the chameleon dead.
However, when they viewed the clip that they had captured, the filmmakers saw that the female chameleon’s skin erupted with color in its final moments.
All that remained of her life were thousands of her eggs buried deep beneath the surface.
“On reviewing the footage, we were amazed and moved by the colorful spectacle they had filmed — something that the scientists have never observed in the wild before,” Fabbri-Kennedy and Raxworthy tell Live Science.
“During death, nervous signals continue to transmit and to change the shape of the skin cells, creating the chaotic technicolor patterns that were captured.”
This species has one of the shortest known life spans of any four-legged vertebrate, living just four to five months after hatching. In the last dying moments, the labord’s chameleon’s skin changes color by expanding and contracting special cells that contain nanocrystals — a process that alters how they reflect light.