Researchers from Bruxelles, Paris and Mons have joined forces to study the incredible powers of the chameleons, one of the oldest animals on the planet.
Chameleons have opposable toes which help them to climb trees, 360-degree vision and their skin contains nanocrystals that produce dramatic color changes.
However, scientists decided to study another amazing feature: the chameleon’s predator skills. The lizards can capture prey that is up to 30% of their weight.
The Lizard’s Eating Apparatus
One of the key weapons of a chameleon is its tongue, which is able to capture preys at long distance. The tongue has a speed of 1500 m/s2 and is twice as long as the body.
It is an already known fact that smaller chameleons have even longer tongues. The measuring includes the tail, which means that actually the small animal’s tongue is an amazing feature that clearly distinguishes it from other creatures.
The tongue is propelled by a tubular muscle, and it’s retracted by the hyoglossus, both muscles being attached to a hyoid bone. The projection can reach a prey in 0.07 seconds, and its power is amplified by the tongue’s elasticity.
A chameleon’s tongue is also thermal insensitive, a detail that makes it independent from the rest of the body and allows the chameleon to use it even if it has a low body temperature. The chameleon can thus feed and produce body heat even before the environment’s temperature changes.
The Special Chameleon Saliva
Contrary to what one may think, the study was not performed by biologists. The leading authors of the study are physicists and chemists, and only one of the scientists comes from the natural history domain.
The object of the research was to determine the content and the abilities of the chameleon’s saliva.
The researchers found that the animal’s mucus has a viscosity 400 times larger than that of a human. Even if the human saliva is not that fascinating, the chameleon’s fluid may help scientists to invent and create new materials.
The study continues with a description of how the chameleon manages to capture its prey by using the speed and the length of its tongue, together with its incredible adhesive saliva.
The scientists used mechanical tools to simulate the process and morphology measurements to predict the exact characteristics that transform chameleons in such powerful predators.
It seems that the combination of techniques will create a new methodology to be used by other research teams on similar subjects, for example, toads and salamanders.
A chameleon’s main course is composed of insects. However, larger species may feed off small birds and other little lizards. Depending on their habitat, different species of chameleons can eat crickets, ants, amphibians, wasps, waxworms. They also eat leaves and berries.
Image Source: Public Domain Pictures