Social isolation in early life could impair the development of reptiles, according to a study of chameleons.

Social behaviour is well documented in mammals and birds, but it is not so firmly corroborated in cold-blooded vertebrates. Cissy Ballen and her colleagues at the University of Sydney in Australia compared the social interactions of veiled chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus) hatchlings raised in isolation with those raised in a group setting. The authors found that socialized lizards were less submissive, displayed brighter and more saturated colours when encountering new chameleons, and captured food more quickly than did lizards raised in isolation.

The findings add to evidence challenging the conventional view that reptiles are capable of only simple social behaviour.

Anim. Behav. (2014)