Show your tongue!

The tongue of chameleons is something very special: chameleons use it to catch their food in a spectacular way by shooting with it. For a long time, it was thought that one of the tongue muscles was responsible for the shooting power. Today we know that an apparatus consisting of many layers of collagen fibres provides the necessary shooting ability. Put simply, the chameleon tongue works like a kind of catapult with a rubber band, only in milliseconds. The structure of the tongue is explained in more detail here.

The chameleon’s tongue shoots out of its mouth with incredible acceleration, hits the food and is then slowly retracted again. The chameleon closes its eyes to prevent injury to these valuable sensory organs when the tongue and insect retract. When fully “extended”, the tongue of most chameleons is one and a half times as long as the body, and in very small species such as ground chameleons it can be up to two and a half times as long. A truly remarkable organ!


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Internationaler Chamäleontag