Note: It's a popular misconception that the chameleon changes its color to match that of the background. In reality, they change colour to reflect mood, temperature, etc. The transparent skin of a chameleon has four layers which work together to produce various colors. The outside layer has two kinds of color cells, yellow and red. Just inside this layer are two more layers that reflect light: one blue and the other white. The innermost layer - important and complicated - contains pigment granules (melanophore cells). The melanophores have a dark brown pigment called melanin, the same substance that colors human skin brown or black. The main body of each melanophore sits like a brooding octopus beneath the reflecting layers and sends tentacle-like arms up through the other layers. The color cells alter size, which changes the amounts of red, yellow, and dark brown in the skin and this, in turn, alters skin color. The reflecting layers modify these effects. Where the skin has a blue layer under yellow cells, the blue reflects through the yellow and changes it to green. Where the blue layer is missing, white shines though and enhances the yellow and red above. The skin brightens when the cells pull the dark melanin from their tentacle-like arms into their bodies. The skin darkens when the cells spread the dark pigment through their arms into the upper layers of the skin. The brownish black color then obscures the white layer, darkening the skin like a black cloud darkens the land. That's how the chameleon changes color. It knows what color to change to just as we do when we turn red with embarrassment.
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