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Monday, November 24, 2008

Chameleons: amazing tongue hunting animal

  • A chameleon’s tongue is twice the length of its body
  • The chameleon's tongue extends faster than the human eye can follow, at around 26 body lengths per second.
  • Chameleon's tongue hits the prey in about 30 thousandths of a second
  • Even a small chameleon is capable of eating a large locust or mantis
  • All chameleon species are able to change their skin color.
  • Chameleons are mostly oviparous, some being ovoviviparous.
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Iguania
Family: Chamaeleonidae

More than 160 species of Chameleons are known, arranged in nine genera. The main distribution of Chameleons is in Africa and Madagascar, and other tropical regions, although some species are also found in parts of southern Europe, southern India and Sri Lanka. There are introduced, feral populations of veiled and Jackson's chameleons in Hawaii and isolated pockets of feral Jackson's chameleons have been reported in California and Florida. Chameleons inhabit all kinds of tropical and mountain rain forests, savannas and sometimes semi-deserts and steppes. They are mostly arboreal and are often found in trees or occasionally on smaller bushes. Some smaller species live on the ground under foliage.

The chameleon's tongue's tip is a bulbous ball of muscle, and as it hits its prey, it rapidly forms a small suction cup. Once the tongue sticks to the prey, it is drawn quickly back into the chameleon’s mouth, where the chameleon's strong jaws crush it. Chameleon's eyes are the most distinctive among the reptiles. The upper and lower eyelids are joined, with only a pinhole large enough for the pupil to see through. The eyes can rotate and focus separately to observe two different objects simultaneously, giving them a full 360-degree arc of vision around their body. When prey is located, both eyes can be focused in the same direction, giving sharp stereoscopic vision and depth perception. They have very good eyesight for reptiles, letting them see small insects from a relatively great (5-10cm) distance.

Different chameleon species are able to change into different colors which can include pink, blue, red, orange, green, black, brown and yellow. Chameleons are naturally colored for their surroundings as a camouflage. Chameleons change their color in response to light exposure and ambient temperature, as well as to express their mood (not for camouflage, as is commonly believed). Emotions and attraction of a mate can induce the color changes seen in a chameleon. The color changes also play a part in communication.


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