Embryonic development of the common chameleon, Chamaeleo chamaeleon, was monitored from oviposition to hatching at a field site in southwestern Spain and in the laboratory under five experimental temperature regimes. Embryos were diapausing gastrulae at the time of oviposition; developmental arrest in the field continued as cold torpor during winter. Postarrest development in the field commenced in April, and hatching occurred in August, for a total incubation period of 10.5 mo. In the laboratory, one group of eggs was incubated at a constant warm (26 degrees C) temperature. The remaining treatments simulated field conditions and consisted of initial periods of warm temperature of 0, 27, 46, and 71 d, a subsequent 4-mo period of cold winter (16 degrees C) temperature, and a final period of warm (26 degrees C) temperature. Embryos in the constant warm temperature treatment were in diapause an average of 3 mo, with clutch means ranging from 2 to 4 mo. Hatching among clutches occurred over 2 mo. In contrast, for field and experimental eggs that experienced cold winter conditions, hatching within treatments occurred over 2-14 d; "winter" conditions synchronized development. The length of time between the end of cold conditions and hatching did not differ among treatments; development thus resumed as soon as temperature was suitable regardless of the initial period of warm temperature. Diapause in nature thus insures that embryos remain gastrulae after oviposition despite nest temperatures that may be warm enough to support development.