How does a Chameleons tongue work ?

Panther Chameleon tongue
A
ll chameleons are predominantly insectivores.  There are  however many Chameleons will actively eat fruit, plant leaves and other vegetation as part of their diet.

With a speed of 13.4 miles per hour (Bijal P. Trivedi, “Catapults” Give Chameleon Tongues Superspeed, Study Saysthat can surpass even some of the fastest bikers in the world with ease, the tongue features a sticky substance that makes hunting or preying times easy and deadly. Modern research suggests that the reason behind a Chameleon’s ability to throw the tongue with ultra-fast speed lies primarily in its biological structure.

That is, structurally, like a motion that resembles arrow launch from a bow, the tongue is propelled by elastic collagen tissue structured in the middle of accelerator muscle and tongue bone or hyoid bone, acting as a catapult.

 The speed at which the Chameleon shoots its tongue is not the only striking thing about the Chameleon’s tongue. Interestingly, a Chameleon has the ability to project its tongue to a distance close to one and half times its body length. Even more surprising is the fact that certain less-researched smaller variants of the lizard can throw their tongues to distances as long as twice their body length!

A Chameleon can typically shoot its tongue out reaching its target in as little as 0.007 seconds. (Chameleon, Wikipedia).
Closely resembling a club (Tongue Mechanics, reptilis.net), the tip of a Chameleon’s tongue contains saliva of sticky  nature, which help adhere the front part of the tongue to the prey in target, when a strike is performed by the lizard. Coiled inside the mouth neatly when not in use (The Incredible Projectile Tongue of the Chameleon, Scribol), the tongue works with the help of circular as well as longitudinal muscles. When it comes to pulling the tongue back in its place, the retractor muscle known as hyoglossus shows its magic of following the tongue projection with precision and accuracy.

Almost every single aspect about the Chameleon’s tongue is extremely interesting especially its ability to project its tongue with such high speeds even when its body temperature remains considerably low, which is not the case with other similar ectothermic animals.

 

References:

1) Trivedi, Bijal. “Catapults Give Chameleon Tongues Superspeed, Study Says.” National Geographic News. National Geographic Society, 19 May, 2004.Web
2) “Chameleon.” 
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 26 April, 2014. Web.
3) “Tongue Mechanics.” 
Reptilis. Reptilis. Web.
4)  Sarus, Emmy. “The Incredible Projectile Tongue of the Chameleon.” 
Scribol. Scribol, 11 October 2010. Web.

 Images:

1) Main image supplied by Scott Cromwell

Chameleons Tail

Panther chameleon
Most Chameleons have prehensile tail, which basically means that the tail allows the creature to hold onto branches and move from one branch to another, in order to make its life easier when it is above the ground.  In fact, the meaning of “prehensile” is ‘able to grasp’ (Prehensile tail, Wikipedia).

The length of a tail depends mostly on the species and age of the Chameleon in question.  For instance, a 9 month old Veiled Chameleon could possibly have a tail of approximately 7-inch in length, where as a 9 month old Pygmy Dwarf Chameleons tail would be considerably smaller.

Since the creature has prehensile tail, the tail cannot fall off and then re-grow, which happens with a number of other similar lizards (Chameleon, San Diego Zoo).  In other words, a Chameleon cannot drop its tail.  Many people are also of the opinion that the tail is used for balancing purposes, and it makes sense to a certain extent.  

As far as colour of tail is concerned, it depends on the Chameleon.  Moreover, since the creature is able to change its skin colour based on temperature, light and mood, the tail colour changes to suit.

We have noticed that when a Chameleon is about to go to sleep, it curls its tail, whether this is to make the Chameleon appear smaller and compact keeping it better hidden or it could be simply that it’s the most comfortable position for the Chameleon to sleep in, we are not sure.

 

References:

1) “Prehensile tail.” Wikipedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 26 December 2013.  Web.
2) “Chameleon.” San Diego Zoo Animals.  San Diego Zoo Global.  Web.

Images:

1) Main image supplied by Cow Yeow