Chameleons are amazing creatures because of the unique ability they have stowed away in their tongues.
Image Credit: National Geographic
Acting a projectile, a chameleon’s tongue exits the mouth at such a high rate of speed that if you compared it to a car, it could travel from 0-60 miles per hour in 1/100th of a second.
You’ve probably seen footage of a chameleon using its tongue as a slingshot to capture prey, and there’s a reason they’re able to do this.
As pointed out in research conducted by a team led by Pascal Damman from the Université de Mons in Belgium, which involved measuring the viscosity of the saliva in a chameleon’s mouth, they found that chameleon saliva is approximately 400 times stickier than human saliva.
The team’s full findings are published in the journal Nature Physics, anything within a third of a chameleon’s body weight can be plucked by the creature’s tongue.
“This unexpectedly large mucus viscosity strongly suggests that the prey sticks to the chameleon’s tongue through viscous adhesion,” the research team said.
The sticky saliva, paired with the shape of the tongue, allows the lassoed projectile to grab adequately-sized prey and snag it right into the lizard’s mouth with insane accuracy.
The following video, shared to the team’s YouTube channel, shows a chameleon using its oddly-shaped tongue and sticky saliva to capture a cricket:
Because the tip of the tongue has a larger surface area than most tongues, anything that gets hit by it is going to stick to it far better than it would to a normal-shaped tongue.
Having this highly capable tool packed away in their mouths, all a chameleon has to do is sit and wait until its prey comes to it, and then it can launch its tongue from its mouth without even moving to eat when it’s hungry.
Truly fascinating, to say the least!
Source: The Verge, National Geographic