The Difference Between a Chameleon & a Gecko

Chameleons can close their eyes, but most geckos cannot.
Chameleons can close their eyes, but most geckos cannot. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Chameleons and geckos are types of lizards found throughout the world that can also be kept as pets. There are over 2,000 different species of geckos in existence, while there are less than 200 different types of chameleons. Both chameleons and geckos are cold-blooded, but are different in many ways.


Chameleon feet resemble mittens, with one thumb-like protrusion and fingers that appear to all be fused together, but with individual claws at the ends. Geckos appear to have hands, with the toes having sticky pads at the end. Most gecko species and chameleon species have prehensile tails, and some gecko species can regrow their tails if they fall off. Chameleons cannot regrow their tails.


Geckos have wide eyes and the majority of gecko species do not have exterior eyelids, meaning they cannot close their eyes. There are a few exceptions, including the leopard gecko. All chameleons have small slits that can open and close over their eyes, and their eyes move independently from one another.


One of the biggest differences between geckos and chameleons is their tongue. The gecko's tongue is short and flat, but long enough to lick its own eyeballs and keep them clean. The chameleon's tongue is a lumpy, fleshy appendage that can shoot out of its mouth and stick to prey, which it pulls back into its mouth.

Color Changing

Chameleons are known for their color-changing abilities, but one common misconception is that chameleons can blend into their backgrounds. Chameleons cannot change different colors, but can lighten or darken their colors. Some species of geckos, such as the crested gecko, can also lighten or darken their colors depending on time of day, mood and stress level.

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