According to research published in 2013 from Arizona State University, chameleons change color as a means of communicating with one another. For example, when two males fight over territory or a female, their color becomes brighter and more vivid.
That means the little lizards don’t just use their ability to change colors as camouflage, blending into their surroundings to hide from predators or to make themselves invisible to prey. The color of their skin reflects more of what’s happening on the inside than what scientists had previously thought.
I found this scientific factoid interesting because the bad guy aliens of my Interstellar Rescue series, the “Grays,” are of reptilian descent and project colorful “auras” to communicate emotion. The colors of their auras, normally a neutral silver-gray, change in accordance with their emotions—deepest black for thunderous rage, red for mere anger, purple for grief, bright blue for sexual arousal, green for fear, etc.
Of course, my Grays don’t look anything like chameleons. They look like the little gray aliens of everyone’s alien abduction nightmares, small of stature, with long, thin limbs, big heads and big, black, almond-shaped eyes. They look delicate and generally are. Still, their evolution in the swamps of their homeworld yielded this particular body structure, ideal for moving quickly over terrain in which heavier bodies would have been mired and easy prey for predators. When they began to require heavy labor for agriculture, mining and factories, they acquired slaves to do the work.
The Grays’s evolution gave them certain advantages over other, stronger species once they began to move out into the galaxy. Since they had been able to communicate emotion through their auras from earliest times, they bypassed the use of verbal language in favor of developing a nascent talent for telepathy. Modern Grays are a fully telepathic race; all Grays can communicate with each other without special training and without touch. They cannot read the thoughts of non-telepaths, but to them that has never been an obstacle. Their auditory senses are fully functional, there are translators, and, of course, there is the mindwipe technique.
Slave rebellions in the early days of the Minertsan Empire (Minertsa is the Gray homeworld), revealed the need for a way to control the populations of bigger, stronger slaves. A lowly analyst working in the Bureau of Labor Sciences developed the technique that allowed the Grays to wipe the minds of their freshly-acquired slaves, most of which were human, eliminating all of the higher emotions—love, hate, anger, sadness, joy—and memories of people and places they had known, leaving only a basic instinct for self-preservation and a willingness to obey. That worker, well-rewarded by his employers, went on to found a major house of the Empire.
Not everyone is susceptible to the mindwipe. Perhaps ten percent of humans, and an unknown percentage of other races, is immune to its effects. The heroine of my first book, Unchained Memory, Asia Burdette, is part of the ten percent, as are Sam Murphy and Rayna Carver, hero and heroine of my third book, Fools Rush In (coming out next year). Lucky for us!
We learn a lot about the Grays, their homeworld of Minertsa, and how they communicate through their colorful auras in the second book of my Interstellar Rescue series, Trouble in Mind, releasing February 16, 2016. Be sure to pre-order your copy NOW on Amazon!
Image adapted from Yemen Chameleon image by Kupos at Wikimedia Commons. Licensed as Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.