Rowan has been asking for a chameleon for years and last week after he was particularly cool about a big disappointment we decided it was time to get one.
We must have made quite a sight when we arrived at the pet store and rolled out the car complete with our four pet rabbits and three of our ducks. Rowan likes to bring an entourage with him when he goes to buy a new animal and is completely oblivious to the fact that not all places like you to turn up with ducks in tow. Luckily the pet store owners were lovely people who smiled indulgently as he let the ducks loose in the store and placed his rabbits in with theirs so they could have a rabbit ‘playdate.’
Whilst one of our current working students Nikki tried to keep the duck/rabbit situation under control and I tried to ignore it (but failed miserably and ended up with duck poo all over me) I attempted to ask intelligent and thoughtful questions about which was the best type of chameleon for us to get and what we needed to do/buy in order to look after it properly. Needless to say I missed a lot of the information and poor Brazos (named after Rowan's beloved river) didn’t even make it a week. Not to be deterred we went back (again with ducks and rabbits in tow) to get Brazos 2 who is still hanging in there despite the fact that I am clearly annoying her (which she makes obvious by hissing every time I come near the cage) by checking on her obsessively every few hours.
Despite the difficulties in caring for them, however, we have learned that chameleons make interesting and rewarding pets and that we can learn a lot from them. For example we have found out that chameleons do not, as popular myth would tell you, change color to camouflage themselves, but instead do so in response to mood. An angry chameleon is yellow where as a calm chameleon is pale green and a chameleon who is ready to mate goes all the colors of the rainbow. We have also learned about the specialized cells that chameleons have under their top layer of skin which is what allows them to change color in the first place. This fed right into our current topic in Horse Boy Learning which is cells and DNA.
As always we do our best to make everything we do a learning opportunity. And it worked. I was explaining to Rowan earlier that human skin makes melanin which is what gives it its color (and protects it from the sun). Rowan had a think about this and later said:
‘I wish we had chromatophore cells instead of melanin – I want to be able to go all the colors of the rainbow…’