Bioko Chameleon Project

Bioko Island is home to a variety of reptiles. There exists 4 species of chameleons on Bioko (crested chameleon, Chameleo cristatus; Fea’s chameleon, C. feae, Owen’s chameleon, C. owenii; and Spectral’s leaf chameleon, Rampholeon spectrum. Of the four species, three can be found on the mainland and one of them is endemic to Bioko Island (C. feae). This chameleon in particular is lacking in scientific research due to its endemism and to the limited accessibility of the island. Since the start of the Drexel University study abroad program in cooperation with the Universidad Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial, students have begun to study various aspects of chameleon life and behavior, namely Fea’s chameleon and Spectral’s leaf chameleon.

These projects, run for ten days twice a year, became the start of the first full-scale chameleon research project on the island. In March of 2011, Drexel Master’s student Elliott Chiu began his thesis work on the feeding ecology of Fea’s chameleon and Spectral’s leaf chameleon. The project focuses on whether or not Bioko Island chameleons feed based on preferences of prey species or availability of prey species. Also, whether species that travel more feed on more energy dense prey species.

In addition to feeding ecology, those involved with the project have also begun to collect behavioral and genetic information. Work on the project has resumed through this year with hopes of continued support and research in the coming field seasons.