Baby Melleri Chameleon Necropsies

My Intentions 

* Please NOTE: Graphic Photos to come, so please be Aware! 


I’m sad to say the Baby Melleri Project hasn’t gone the way I expected. I was hoping to acquire a few Baby Melleri Chameleons in hopes to see them grow up and document their progress. I thought 6 would be a good number to start with. This way I could keep focused and document without getting overwhelmed with a clutch of 40.

I am personally curious what Captive Bred Melleri vs. Imported Sub-Adults face in their lives. Their stresses, their illnesses and possibly living longer in captivity if they are brought up there.

Although this process has brought more heartache than joy at this time. I am glad to say that I have been able to learn what happened to each of the 4 that has passed so far. This research is very important to me and I am hoping to learn from this and use it when I am able to breed my own babies when it’s time.

Why I want to breed my own Melleri

Gregory & Melvin 2011

Gregory & Melvin 2011


I am very fortunate, so it’s not for the money. It’s about keeping this species alive and helping others be able to personally live with these Amazingly Social Chameleons! It’s neat to look back on research and see where people thought Melleri were not social. From my personal experiences and the love that has grown for this species…. I can say they “Are Social” in the right conditions and this brings so much Joy to me and I want to share this with the World. 🙂

If others get more involved and we can build a data base for this research, we can help these chameleons beyond what we are doing now. More people keeping = more vets working with illnesses = more Knowledge. KNOWLEDGE is POWER!


Background Information

2 at first, then ordered 4 more that day.

2 at first, then ordered 4 more that day.

I purchased 2 babies from a place in Florida. The mother came in pregnant and laid the babies there. I am still waiting on the details of how the were incubated and cared for/their environment before they got shipped to me at 17 days old.

I took a gamble and I am not mad, although I put a bit of money and time into the project. I just want to help them have a better survival rate next time. I believe they mentioned they had 39-40 eggs this clutch.

Speaking to other keepers/breeders, I am hearing a few things and I want to address them. Hope in time to be able to do more research and again, help.

Thoughts to Address

Thought 1. “Babies are sold as young as possible to make money before they all die.”

I can see this. Maybe it is true. Most breeders (Veileds and Panthers – being the more popular kind), those babies aren’t sold and distributed til at Least 3 Months old! So, their Survival Rate is better.

I was happy to get those babies as Young as possible, so they could be given my “specific chameleon care conditions” and to document their progress. The younger the better for me, but until I can breed my own, will I be able to experience this “whole” process of egg to baby to adult.

As approaching my new found Goal of Keeping Melleri alive and well and 2nd Goal of Breeding (keeping this species alive), I have just now been asking around about clutches/babies and breeding.


a. Most of the babies we see in captivity are from the females coming in pregnant.

b. A few keepers have a pair breed, but this is more a “1 time thing” vs. yearly able to successfully.

c. Most if not all the babies from clutches “die” unexpectedly. 

* This is why I am glad to be where I am in my Research. Although it saddens me, we need to address what is happening and correct it, and help teach so we can save these babies.

I have only had 2 Melleri baby experiences.


San Diego Reptile Show 6/18/2011 Baby Melleri for sale $125

1. Purchased a baby from California Reptile Show, it was 5 weeks old. It lived 2 more weeks, but ended up with a RI. The vet I was working with at the time wasn’t knowledgable and pompous. I made a real effort to get him into the vet for meds, since it was July 4th weekend. He said he was “fine” and $63 later, nothing. This was my indication to find a new vet that was more Qualified.

2 days after trying to help it get the meds it needed, I went to the Emergency vet and it died in the waiting room.  I wasn’t into the further research at the time. So I cried and went home. Later talking to someone who knew other people who purchased from the same clutch, with the same problems, they all ended up dead. 😦


6.24.11 (6 days later)


Cage set-up I was sold

Vet Bill, since I didn't take photos

Vet Bill, since I didn’t take photos



7.3.2011, when I knew he was dying.


Dying. 7.3.2011


7.3.2011 Dead

2. My new experiences with “Yolk” problems. At least this is what we are calling this problem, til the Pathology Report on Baby #2b comes back in a couple weeks.



Thought 2. Incubation and First few weeks of life have specific Requirements, but what are they?

Theory: Possible that the eggs were incubated at to high of a temp. Hatching prior to absorbing most or the yoke? Or are yolks supposed to be around still up to 2 weeks after being born?

Any info on this….much Appreciated. Until I can further my research by keeping Melleri eggs personally, I can only hope that anyone that has Melleri egg experience can kindly help out with details.


YOLK – I am new to this Yolk inside the body/attached to intestine. When I think of yolk, I think of egg and outside of chameleon. I will report my details soon.

Yolk attached to intestine

Yolk attached to intestine

So anyone with further research in this department, please email me:

Eggs and Egg Laying

Squirt laying 39 eggs. 5.25.14 - 2:38pm

Squirt laying 39 eggs. 5.25.14 – 2:38pm

I had a female (Squirt) lay eggs a couple months ago (May 2014), but they were infertile. I was sad, but happy she successfully laid eggs, so she was getting the right nutrients and conditions to help her have no “egg binding”. She laid 39 eggs.

* So far I have reports that females lay around 40 eggs per clutch.

Anyone with personal reports/photos, please email me:


Squirts eggs (39)

Squirt eggs, Infertile

Squirt eggs, Infertile

molded. Infertile.

molded. Infertile. 6.1.14 (7 days later)

Egg Incubation

I have heard that eggs take 4 months to hatch once laid. I have heard this from a couple sources, so this I can believe it true. Once I build my own research I can chime in.


Arrival of the Babies!

2 at first, then ordered 4 more that day.

2 at first, then ordered 4 more that day.

17 days New!  6.17.14

17 days New!

6 babies!!!

6 babies!!!

They are just too cute!

They are just too cute!


I purchased 2 of them. Once they arrived and I felt they looked “good”, I decided that 6 would be better for my research than 2. I guess it was meant to be for me to only have 2, since 4 have died now. I had all of them when they were 19 days old. The seller said they were born at the beginning of the month, but didn’t have to exact date, so I made it easy on myself and said June 1st 2014 was their “Hatch Date”.

I fed them mainly fruit flies, but had some mantis babies hatch the same time, so we tried those. I also gave silkworms and hornworms when I had some tiny enough to feed.

Mantis for breakfast?

Mantis for breakfast?


We knew they were eating and drinking, because we found fruit flies and liquid (in the dead ones stomachs).



The Necropsies…

* I didn’t mark them until I got down to 3. to tell them apart.

Baby #1a – Male




Baby #1a was found dead in the bottom of cage the morning of 7.14.14 (6weeks old). He had crusted fecal that didn’t look normal to me. I was able to get into the vet the same day for a necropsy.

The only thing Noted as ABNORMAL was the Yolk.


Yolk that should have be resorbed by week 6


I was worried that the others would die from this same thing, but tried to keep a positive outlook. As I checked on each of them daily, I decided to add a heat lamp to the set-up in case they needed to be warmer than 80 degrees during the day. Then mist them a few more times during the day.


Lights are off in photo. This was taken after bedtime.

Lights are off in photo. This was taken after bedtime.


I thought we were doing well, then I not only found 1 more dead, but 2! This really broke me heart. I was more in fear that everyone would die from the same problem.


7.19.14 – 5 days after the 1st died

I couldn’t get into the vet the same day (this was a Saturday), so I had to wait til Monday when he was in to call and see about a necropsy. I was able to keep them fresh in the refrigerator til then, but doing a necropsy asap is best.


Baby #1b – Female

baby #1b - yolk found

baby #1b – yolk found

So far, the rest of the organs looked “Normal” and vet saw no need to do Histopathology.

Baby #1c – Male

This chameleon had yolk as well. “not a good color” either.



All of the organs were reported as “normal”.

I wanted to make sure the last 3 got “Looked over” just in case I was missing something.


check-up on last 3 alive

I showed the vet that there was 1 that I was “concerned” about. She seemed a little slower, hung out in the middle of the cage in the plant vs. hanging out on the top where the others did in the daytime.

After my vet visit, I decided that the last 3 were going to get a special shower daily for a few minutes. This way I could monitor/observe them.

1 by thumb was the sick one

1 by thumb was the sick one

What the babies register at in the shower

What the babies register at in the shower


My First thing to do when I go into the Lizard Room is to check on the babies. The morning of the 29th (7.29.14), I was so upset. The 4th baby (#2b) was on the bottom of the cage. At least she was still alive and I was adamant about saving this one if I could.

I decided to document my process to help me. I First decided that Heat, Humidity, Water and Food was all I could do til I could call the vet and see about going in. But from what I learned from the last 3 experiences, there wasn’t much beyond this that I could do. But it was worth my efforts.


Baby #2b – Female

Observed her at First to assess what to do next

Observed her at First to assess what to do next





Looked like prolapsing, but it was a fecal

Looked like prolapsing, but it was a fecal




I tried to shower #2b to see if this would help. I think it was too late to save her.



She was 78 before I turned on the heating pad. I wanted to warm her up some and then try and syringe feed her some food. The warmth would help her body to process the already broken down Carnivore Care I mixed up.


The baby didn’t make it. I was aggravated, although I knew it was inevitable. I hope she knew I was there to help. I was glad this time that I was able to observe her seizing/paralysis vs. the other 3 that I just found dead. So, I learned a little more with this one. I am just curious if the others had the same issues.


Baby #2b – Necropsy – 7.29.14 


Check-up on last 3


Wanted to share some of my vet notes this time.


1. Paralysis was Bazaar

2. Yolk – not normal to have at 7 weeks old.

3. My room temperature of 74-80 – should be fine.

4. Seizure – Something in the brain

5. Paralysis – Could be brain or stroke or spinal cord problem

6. Stool check – Nothing in fecal or stomach/checked by microscope. (He through the slide away before I could ask to take a photo, but unless we find stuff I normally dont ask). (NO – Parasites and Protozoa, worms or eggs)

*Vet did find fly legs/parts, so it was eating.

HUGE Yolk! Not Good at all!!!

HUGE Yolk! Not Good at all!!!


We decided to run a FULL Tissue Histopathology Report this time, to make sure if it was the Yolk causing the problems or if something else could have contributed. Especially when we discovered the Paralysis and Seizure before death.



All of the organs looked “Normal” in the vets findings, but the Histopathology will give more depth, so I will update and add this report once I get in back in 2 weeks.

Full Tissue Samples to send to Lab

Full Tissue Samples to send to Lab


How about a little more info? 


How does this Happen?

VET: Usually Incubation Problem.

1. Too much Humidity

2. Too Low of Temperature. ( too cold = sick) – Chilled and everything slows down.

* Should be all gone. Used up by First week of life.



1. It attaches (yolk) by little stalk to the intestine. Its supposed to meter into the intestine and thats what feeds them for a period of time. (In the egg & after hatch out).

Yolk is attached to intestine. (Normal). They are supposed to resorb this.

They grow around it and blood supply. It gets incorporated into their body wall and the umbilicus seals over. Then their body should still eat the rest of that yolk up.

What else can you do for them? Water, Warmth & Humidity is all.

Damage is Done. As far as the yolk not being resorbed in the 1st week of life is when they do their resorbination and vet thinks what is happening is they are not resorbing completely



QUESTIONS TO ASK/Waiting to hear back from breeder:

1. How long  was incubation was for?

2. What temp and humidity they were kept at?

3. What temp and humidity you kept the babies at once born?

4. How many days total it took from 1-40 egg to hatch?

5. What enclosure you kept them in? All together?

6. When was the earliest date you let them be shipped?

7. When did they start feeding?

8. What you fed them?




So, we took a few measurements on the last baby for Research. I could go back on the others and do the same maybe in the future when I have time, but this is what we found so far.

Baby #2b

Weight on #2b

Weight on #2b

Length of #2b

Length of #2b

Tongue Length #2b

Tongue Length #2b


* Chris Anderson was able to help me figure out the “SVL” (Snout-Vent Length).

Figure out proportionately how long its tongue was relative to its body length.

~1.2 body lengths in this image. The reason I was interested in that is because there is some variation in how tongue projection length seems to relate to body length depending on how you are making the comparison (i.e. whether you are comparing within or among species). – Chris Anderson


Baby #2a







Baby #2c







Every morning now when I head up to the Lizard Room I anxiously look into the baby cage and Pray the last 2 make it. I don’t know if there is a “Safe” date that we can Assume this yolk is resorbed and they can go on about their lives and be Normal.

I would really enjoy seeing them grow and working with them daily to track their progress. This means the World to me. If it is meant to be it will. I can just hope for a Brighter Outcome of the last 2 and hope that I will have my hands full next year with my own babies.

I have a Sexually Active male (had sex last year), but only attempted this year. Then I was able to artificially inseminate 1 of my females with sperm from my other male, so we will see.

As for the Tests and Other Stuff 

I should hear back from the lab soon. I am also drawling up Necropsy Reports for my vet to sign off on. If I find more time I will unfreeze the babies and try and do a size study/measure SVL.

I will post this and then Re-Post this once I have the rest of the Information.

A Personal Thank you to ALL who have been there Supporting my Efforts and Helping me keep Focused. I Can’t Thank you enough and I hope that in time I can be a Expert and Help others grow this Passion for Melleri that I have.



One thought on “Baby Melleri Chameleon Necropsies

  1. I absolutely love all the work and data you have been working on. I am probably one of the biggest chameleon fans in the world. Unfortunately I’ve only had the pleasure of caring for veiled chameleon’s and have lost one myself, RIP Cammy. I agree chameleon’s can be very social animals and it was rough losing one. At that time I tried to do research and anything to help. There just isn’t enough information, or proven information. I would love to be of any help if at all possible, and I have been looking into starting a chameleon rescue myself. I really just wanted to say I know from experience a death of even one can be extremely heart breaking, and I’m glad to see after so much, you are still doing so much to help. Sorry if I’ve waisted any of your time, I just truly love what your doing and could always use a few pointers or someone with as much experience with chameleon’s as yourself would be a strong contact to have on your side.

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