Chameleons are fascinating creatures with amazing characteristics. Their feet have opposable toes, giving them a tong-like appearance, to firmly grip branches. Their eyes move independently of each other to provide 360 degree vision. Their skin changes colour via the active tuning of a lattice of nanocrystals contained in some cells. But their most outstanding characteristic is probably their ballistic tongue, allowing the capture of distant prey.

Despite their nonchant appearance, chameleons are formidable predators, leaving little chance to their prey. During a capture, their tongue whips out with an acceleration up to 1500m/s2 and extends to reach a length twice that of the chameleon’s body. They are also able to capture prey weighing up to 30% of their own weight. Sufficient adhesion between the prey and the tongue is therefore necessary to catch such prey.” 1

With this in mind, French researchers decided to investigate the composition of the chameleon’s sticky tongue and discovered that the mucus secreted at the tip of a chameleon’s tongue has a viscosity 400 times greater than human saliva. This allows it to cling to the insect in spite of the high-speed contact and recoil. That’s all fine, but how does the chameleon release its prey in the mouth? And how can the lizard keep from biting its tongue? “We can only hypothesize” about those matters, said one researcher on the team.

Last year, Phys.org decided to research the strike rate of the chameleon’s tongue to discover how it could reach such incredible speeds so quickly. e abstract read like this: “ The ballistic projection of the chameleon tongue is an extreme example of quick energy release in the animal kingdom. It relies on a complicated physiological structure and an elaborate balance between tissue elasticity, collagen fibre anisotropy, active muscular contraction, stress release and geometry”.

The tongue of the chameleon is remarkably sophisticated. They wrote: “In order to reach such incredible speeds so quickly, the chameleon relies on three main parts: the sticky pad that is situated on the end of its tongue which adheres to prey, coils of acceleration muscles which shoot out the tongue and retractor muscles that pull prey back in before they have a chance to escape. They also note that both types of muscles coil around a tiny bone in the mouth—the hyoid. In order for a chameleon to catch prey, all of its systems must work in near perfect unison”.

In cold weather, a chameleon’s metabolism and muscles slow down, but researchers discovered that its tongue still continued to work quickly to capture prey. This is strange, because the tongue is a muscle, and all the chameleon’s other muscles are affected by temperature, so why not the tongue?

Science News reported that a researcher found that a chameleon’s tongue contains a sheath of elastic collagen. When the chameleon retracts its tongue, the muscles work hard, because they are compressing the collagen. This stores energy, much like the compression of a spring.

When the chameleon wants to shoot its tongue out to secure its prey, it doesn’t rely as much on its muscles. Instead, it relies on all that stored energy in the elastic collagen that has been derived from slowly retracting its tongue.

Evolutionists ignore the impossible odds of getting all these mechanisms working together and are left with the overwhelming task of explaining how the accelerator sheaths came into existence; how the tongue grew so long and was able to be coiled inside the lizard’s head; and how it achieved this “elaborate balance between tissue elasticity, collagen fibre anisotropy, active muscular contraction, stress release and geometry”. Such complexity surely requires an intelligent Designer.

Footnotes

  1. EurekAlert – How Chameleons Capture Their Prey