STATES CHRONICLE – Chameleons are some of humanity’s favorite creatures. With their camouflage abilities, goofy eyes, and their ability to instill catchy 1980s earworms in us, they are some of the most interesting and fun animals out there. However, what you may not know about them is that smaller chameleons have amazingly powerful tongues.
And you know that we don’t use the word “amazing” too lightly around here.
As it turns out, small chameleons severely outmatch their larger cousins in terms of tongue strength, speed, and acceleration.
The small reptiles can accelerate their tongues up to 264 times the force of gravity, reaching 60 miles per hour in under a hundredth of a second. Amazing, right?
The little reptiles can accelerate their tongues faster than almost any modern vehicle, and they most definitely need it. This is because the smaller reptiles need significantly more food than their larger, slower counterparts.
Due to their increased metabolism, the chameleons need to consume quite a lot of insects every day in order to stay decently fed, so an increased speed for their tongues ensures a wider variety and a bigger abundance of prey.
The lead author of the study, Christopher Anderson, from the Brown University, was very impressed with the findings, claiming that it is a prime example of morphological evolution owed to metabolic needs.
The mechanism behind the chameleons’ powerful tongues is very interesting as well.
Instead of relying solely on muscle power to deliver the fatal strike to their prey, chameleons make use of a special bone to which their tongue is attached.
The bone is called the hyoid, and it has a cylindrical piece of muscle attached to it; there are also elastic connective tissues present between the sheath-like piece of muscle and the bone.
When the animal wants to launch its tongue, it contracts the cylindrical muscle, stretching the elastic tissue pretty much like a bow’s string. This is what actually makes the chameleon’s tongue so powerful.
The lead researcher used very sensitive high-speed camera to record 55 chameleons ranging from 1.6 to 7.8 inches, all belonging to 22 different species.
Not only did the acceleration differ between each species, but so did the length of the projected tongue. So, the animals launched their tongues from 1.5 to 2.5 times their body length, and it turned out that the smaller the animal, the faster the acceleration of their tongue.
Some of the smaller chameleon species reported power outputs of over 14,000 watts per kilogram. By comparison, in order to win the Tour de France, you would need about 6.7 watts per kilogram during the final push.
Image source: Pixabay