Tags: smallest | chameleons | fastest | tongues | stretch

Smallest Chameleons Are Fastest Tongue-Hurlers, New Study Finds

Image: Smallest Chameleons Are Fastest Tongue-Hurlers, New Study Finds
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By    |   Tuesday, 05 Jan 2016 09:01 AM

Some of the smallest chameleons appear to have the fastest tongues, with the ability to stretch them up to two and a half times their body lengths with the acceleration of 264 times the force of gravity, according to a new study published in Scientific Reports this week.

Probably known best for its ability to change colors, chameleons that are smaller — some the size of a thumb — are better at hurling their tongues to snatch up prey, the study found, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Larger chameleons can stretch their tongues up to twice their body lengths at an acceleration of 486 meters per second squared, or 50 times the force of gravity, it was previously discovered. But the new study in Scientific Reports showed that smaller chameleons' tongues, like the Rhampholeon spinosus, can strike a prey at 2,590 meters per second squared, of 264 times the force of gravity.

"Stretching elastic tissues and using their recoil to power movement allows organisms to release energy more rapidly than by muscle contraction directly, thus amplifying power output," the study's abstract stated.

"Chameleons employ such a mechanism to ballistically project their tongue up to two body lengths, achieving power outputs nearly three times greater than those possible via muscle contraction."

Such ability is often an indication of a "power amplification mechanism" in animals that allows their movement to exceed what their muscles are known to produce.

"This logic has been used to implicate power amplification mechanisms in various systems, including the jumping of insects and frogs, and tongue projection in salamanders, toads, and chameleons," according to the study. "Similar elastic recoil mechanisms may be used, however, even when calculated power output levels fail to exceed known maxima for muscle."

Study author and Brown University researcher Charles V. Anderson believes that smaller chameleons probably perform better than the larger ones because of metabolism, The New York Times reported. Smaller animals often have higher metabolisms and need more food per pound, so their quicker tongues come in handy, he said.

Anderson was not able to test the smallest known chameleon, which lives in Madagascar, because it is protected and cannot be collected. Anderson told the newspaper that he hopes to get permission to study them in the field in the future.

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Some of the smallest chameleons appear to have the fastest tongues, with the ability to stretch them up to two and a half times their body lengths with the acceleration of 264 times the force of gravity, according to a new study published in Scientific Reports this week.
smallest, chameleons, fastest, tongues, stretch
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2016-01-05
Tuesday, 05 Jan 2016 09:01 AM
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