Naming Your Chameleon: Sci-Fi Edition

Every pet deserves a great name, and your chameleon is no exclusion. But what exactly makes a great chameleon name? Sure, you can choose a variety of standby options, but isn’t it better to have a little fun?

With that in mind, we present the first part in a chameleon naming series geared to those with specific interests. And, in this case, we are referring to science fiction.

While there are certain classic options included in this list, we have also added some that might not be as well known as others. If these specific names don’t meet your needs, we hope they inspire you to consider all of the options available to you when it comes to naming your chameleon. So, without any further ado, let’s get started.

Admiral Ackbar – Star Wars

Admiral Ackbar is a classic Star Wars character, most famously known for identifying the trap at the Battle of Endor (and the classic line of dialogue “It’s a trap!” that has made itself known across a wide range of popular media).

Aside from being a well-recognized character in the franchise, the character also has a look that shares some similarities to chameleons. His eyes provide a wide range of vision, and the character has no obvious external ears. He also has an appearance that resembles that of a reptile or amphibian species.

But the best reason to choose this as a name is really the fact that it’s fun to say Admiral Ackbar in serious tones.

Keenser – Star Trek

Now, it wouldn’t be appropriate to have Star Wars represented without also finding a suitable name from another great sci-fi franchise, Star Trek. And that is where Keenser comes in.

Keenser is the small alien best known for his connection to Montgomery Scott in the newest iterations of the Star Trek movies. His skin texture has a reptile-like appearance, and his eyes lack discernable irises. Additionally, his character lacks dialogue, meaning all of his emotions require reading his body language, not unlike dealing with a pet chameleon.

Ocheeva and Teinaava – Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

For those who are fans of the Elder Scrolls video game franchise, you may appreciate naming your chameleon after a well-known Argonian from the games. In this case, we settled on Ocheeva, a leader of the Dark Brotherhood in Oblivion, as well as her twin brother, Teinaava. These characters play notable roles for anyone who followed the Dark Brotherhood storyline within the game and, since the Argonian race is reptilian in nature, their names make excellent choices.

Greedo – Star Wars

Another Star Wars character that has reptilian characteristics is Greedo, the Rodian bounty hunter most known for his part in the infamous showdown with Han Solo that continues to prompt the debate of who shot first.

While Greedo’s eye placement, and the presence of discernable ears, don’t necessarily mirror a chameleons, the fact that the eyes don’t display traditional irises around pupils can be seen as a similarity. And, if your chameleon is one that happens to have a voracious appetite or is particular defensive regarding his or her personal space, the fact that “greed” is part of the name may make it even more ideal.

Honorable Mentions

Some other characters within the larger sci-fi universe worth mentioning include:

  • Dachande – Predator in Alien vs. Predator mythology that is best known for being the first Predator to face a xenomorph in unarmed combat and survive.
  • Jeriba and Zammis Shigan – aliens in the film Enemy Mine
  • Dr. Lazarus – fictional name of the sci-fi character played in Galaxy Quest by actor Alan Rickman

There are likely many more potential names from sci-fi to choose from, but hopefully, these options gave you some inspiration. Look for future installments in the “Naming Your Chameleon” series for inspiration taken from other areas of literature, television, film, and more.

Pets and Improved Mental Health: It’s Not Just for Cats and Dogs

It is fairly well-known that having a pet can provide significant mental health benefits. But, when we read the studies or see the news clips, the coverage mostly relates to owning cats or dogs, and not often more exotic pets like chameleons. However, owning any pet can be beneficial to your mental health. And that includes our unique chameleon friends.

So, how can owning a chameleon help your mental health? Let me count the ways!

1. Pets Soothe and Relax

Most studies show that pet owners have lower blood pressure and heart rates when dealing with challenging mental stresses. This could pertain to everyday situations like paying bills, helping children with their homework, or watching your favorite sports team getting knocked out of the playoffs. Just their presence can relax and soothe their owners, regardless of whether they are of the furry variety or not.

In fact, one piece of research demonstrated a connection between lower stress and simply watching a fish tank, even when the fish didn’t belong to the individual being observed. And, if you want to talk about a pet that can’t provide physical affection, then a fish is likely the epitome of that. Yet, their presence is enough to cause a positive reaction.

2. Pets Don’t Judge

Another benefit that applies to any pet, including chameleons, is that they don’t judge their owners. There is no negative feedback about the decisions you made, the clothes you wear, or the quality of your resume. And that means we can say anything in their presence without fear of ridicule or reprisal. In some cases, that is more than we can say of our closest friends, so it’s no wonder so many people cite feeling as close to their pets as some of their friends and family members.

3. Pets Give Us Purpose

Research on depression has shown that the responsibility of owning a pet is beneficial to mental health. We develop skills in caring for our animal brethren, and we know that we are being relied on for their care. By managing the tasks successfully, our self-esteem can improve. It also ensures that we maintain a particular schedule, as not getting out of bed and skipping a feeding, misting, or cleaning isn’t necessarily an option.

4. Chameleons Help Fill a Gap

Therapy animals have been on the mental health scene for some time. But that doesn’t mean everyone wants to own a traditional fuzzy creature like a cat or dog. In fact, someone suffering from serious allergies to cats or dogs may actually find their mental state worse with this form of animal companion and not better. And that’s where some of the more exotic choices come in.

Chameleons, snacks, toads, and other reptiles and amphibians give options to those who aren’t as enthusiastic about owning a furry friend. And that means those individuals can get the companionship they need to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression in the same way that many others do.

And that, my friend, is a beautiful thing.

http://usherp.org/tag/therapy-reptiles/

https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health-benefits/index.html

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/05/19/6-ways-pets-relieve-depression/

Save the Pondo Dwarf Chameleon | A Look at Project Pondo

Herpetological Conservation International (HCI) is on a mission; a mission to save the endangered Pondo Dwarf Chameleon. This species is at risk due to its limited range. As the available habitat continues to shrink due to development in the Wild Cost region of South Africa’s Eastern Cape, HCI is looking to purchase available land that has been identified as the home of this wonderful chameleon species.

The goal is to maintain an environment that would protect the Pondo Dwarf Chameleon from extinction, and may be the first attempt to create a reserve specifically to save a chameleon.

Pondo Dwarf Chameleon Current Habitat

The Pondo Dwarf Chameleon is limited to a very specific area near Port St Johns, South Africa. The land is currently unprotected, leaving it open to development or use for agricultural purposes, a common threat due to increased urbanization in the area.

The area being sought for purchase is part of the Wild Cost, a section in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa. The environment is known as “Afrotropical,” referring to the unique coastal forest properties. Currently, the eco-region is considered endangered by both the IUCN and WWF.

The Goals of Project Pondo

HCI intends to purchase available land that is known to be inhabited by the Pondo Dwarf Chameleon. This allows the land to be set aside, creating a safe reserve for these wonderful creatures to thrive. Surveys have been completed to ensure that the targeted properties are currently inhabited by the chameleon, ensuring each purchase provides a benefit to the species.

As land is secured, the hope is to partner with local researches to perform various ecological studies. These studies would allow participants to be better informed regarding the species needs, and will aid in any habitat restoration attempts.

Other Benefiting Species

The region is also host to a number of other endangered animal species. The species would also benefit from the purchase and preservation of the land:

  • Giant Golden Mole
  • Samango Monkey
  • Spotted Ground Thrush
  • Cape Parrot
  • Pondoland Cannibal Snail
  • Pondo Flat-Necked Shieldback
  • Transkei Shieldback
  • Castleton’s Flightless Katydid

The reserve would also help the endangered Pondo Weeping Thorn.

Financial Goals

To complete this ambitious mission, HCI is looking to raise the required project budget of $50,000. HCI is a registered 501c(3) public charity. All donations made to the cause re tax deductible per federal law.

Would You Like to Help Save the Pondo Dwarf Chameleon?

If you would like to help Project Pondo reach their goal, see their Member Plant campaign page.

More information can also be found on the HCI website, as well as the HCI Facebook page.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow | The Endangered Belalanda Chameleon

Native to the south-western portion of Madagascar, the Belalanda Chameleon, or Furcifer belalandaensis, is considered to be a critically endangered species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) includes the Belalanda Chameleon on their Red List, which contains a variety of species that are thought to be on the edge of extinction.

What Does Critically Endangered Mean?

The IUCN develops criteria to help classify the health of animal species across the world. If classified as critically endangered, it is believed that the species faces an extremely high risk of becoming extinct in the wild. The Belalanda Chameleon is considered critically endangered due to the limited size of its known natural habitat, as well as the assumed size of the population.

A Tiny Natural Habitat

The Belalanda Chameleon is named after the town of Belalanda, where this particular species can be found. While many chameleons inhabit Madagascar, the Belalanda is thought to only live in an area of about 1.5 square miles. Much of the gallery forest that was known to be home to this particular chameleon has been cleared away, but reforestation efforts, combined with education of the local population, aim to help bring this species back from the brink.

A Mysterious Creature

One of the only descriptions that is fairly easy to find is that the Belalanda Chameleon is green in color. Due to the falling population, not much else is known about the Belalanda Chameleon. This makes conservation efforts particularly challenging, as it is difficult to determine what kind of environment would help the population reestablish itself in its home area. With that in mind, funding had been provided to help the Durrell Institute for Conservation and Ecology in the United Kingdom, and Madagaskiara Voakajy of Madagascar to study the species and its habitat to help draw plans for further protection.


Protection Efforts

In order to support protection efforts, the Belalanda Chameleon cannot be collected, transported, or traded away from the local area. As part of the conservation efforts, the species will be evaluated to determine if it is suitable for captive breeding, which may help increase the wild population while also allowing some to be housed in appropriate facilities.

So far, the Belalanda has only been found in three towns in Madagascar, and the true number that exist in the wild is still unknown.

 

 

 

 

http://www.madagasikara-voakajy.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=142:chameleon-and-gecko-conservation&catid=39:projects&Itemid=61

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110228090603.htm

http://www.thebhs.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=23&Itemid=30

http://www.wwf.mg/news.cfm?194434/Protecting-the-chameleon-Furcifer-belalandaensis

http://www.arkive.org/belalanda-chameleon/furcifer-belalandaensis/

http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/summary/172740/0

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Taxonomy/Browser/wwwtax.cgi?id=179924

http://reptile-database.reptarium.cz/species?genus=Furcifer&species=belalandaensis

http://www.pbs.org/edens/madagascar/creature3.htm

The Better to Climb You With, My Dear | A Tale of Chameleon Feet

yemen-chameleon-233095While a chameleon can travel across the ground, they are tree-dwellers by nature. In order to climb the tallest trees and reach the highest branches, chameleons developed feet that are designed with that task in mind. Even though the digits of a chameleon do not provide all of the functionality of a hand, they certainly can come close.

Here, we take an in-depth look at how some of our favorite color-changing critters get around.

High Five (But Not Too Hard)!

A chameleon’s foot consists of five digits, or toes, but they function in groups. Three toes work together, while the other two toes function as their own duo. Whether the group of three toes is the inner or outer group depends on the foot. On the front feet, the group of three forms to outer group, leaving the other two toes to form the inner group. However, on their rear feet, the arrangement is reversed, with three toes forming the inner group and two toes on the outer.

At the end of each of those toes is a claw. Now, these claws aren’t necessarily in place specifically to help them mount an attack, but they do help a chameleon dig in to the various materials that they climb. And, with all of that work, they can get quite sharp. While you may be tempted to trim or cut them, it is important to leave these claws be, as they are a critical component to a chameleons climbing ability.

Zygodactyl for the (Almost) Win

The feet of a chameleon are most commonly referred to as being zygodactyl, but it isn’t a completely accurate assessment. The reason chameleon feet have been placed in the zygodactyl group is that they resemble the feet of parrots and other birds, whose feet were previously classified as being zygodactyl.

Like chameleon’s, zygodactylous feet have toes that function in groups, with an inner and outer set allowing them to grip on to surfaces like tree branches. One striking difference between a chameleon’s feet and those of our feathered friends is the birds only have four toes, working in pairs, instead of five.

With that in mind, some people choose to refer to the feet of a chameleon as having a zygodactyl pattern as a way of differentiating them from the more commonly associated four-toed structure of the birds.

Climbing to the Top

The vice-like grip of a chameleon’s feet allow them to climb up or down branches that are essentially vertical in orientation. While the majority of the work is performed by the feet, the prehensile tail also plays in role in helping the chameleon feel more secure during their ascent and descent.

Part of what makes the chameleon’s foot so adept at climbing is the unique ball-and-socket structure of the joints in the ankle area. Instead of only working in one direction, like a traditional hinge, the joint allows the digits to rotate to a degree, providing them with the flexibility to shift their toes to obtain the best position around the branch. It is this adaptation that have led the chameleon to become one of the best tree climbers in the animal kingdom.

 

 

 

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/zygodactyl

http://www.nwf.org/Kids/Ranger-Rick/Animals/Amphibians-and-Reptiles/Chameleons.aspx

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150918105435.htm

On the Road Again II: Trips with Overnight Stays

Sometimes, your travel plans may prevent you from getting to your destination in a day. Maybe you are moving across the country to attend college, start a new job, or just for a change of scenery. Regardless of the reason, you are faced with the challenge of figuring out how to move your chameleon over multiple days, and you only option is in a vehicle.

While the situation is certainly not ideal, that does not mean it is impossible to manage. If you are in a position where you are traveling with your chameleon, and you must stay overnight somewhere, here are some tips to help you navigate the landscape as easily and safely as possible.

Check the Rules

Before you worry about where to stop with your chameleon, you need to make sure that you can bring him (or her) along your desired path. Not all animals are allowed to be brought across certain interstate or international lines, and it would be a shame to get to a particular border to only then realize you have a problem.

Prior to making any other travel arrangements, consult the United State Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Pet Travel page. While the site focuses on information for your destination, take the time to review the rules for every state or country you will pass through since you will be traveling by vehicle.

Keep in mind that there may be restrictions on bringing insects (live or dead) between certain locations as well. So, just because your chameleon is cleared, that doesn’t mean your box of crickets is too. Make sure to check any rules about their ability to cross state lines or international borders as well.

Get a Veterinarian to Sign Off

It is not uncommon for health certificates to be required in order to travel between certain locations. This helps ensure that your chameleon is fit for travel and is not bringing any concerning health condition into new areas. Even if you do not see the requirement specified, it is wise to have your veterinarian examine your chameleon before any stressful event.

If your move is permanent, you may want to see what is necessary to have copies of your chameleon’s veterinarian records made, or what process is required to have a new veterinarian request the information, especially if there have been notable health events previously.

Plan Your Route to Plan Your Stops

While some road trips can be setup on the fly, a trip that involves a pet should always be planned. Not only are you going to need to clear the ability to bring your chameleon in with you for the overnight stops on your trip, you are going to want to make sure that you have access to everything you may need along the way.

If you are planning on spending the night in a hotel or motel, you might think it is easier to either sneak your chameleon into the room, or leave him in the vehicle. In both of these cases, your answer is NO, and here’s why:

  1. If you fail to get permission to bring your chameleon (and any live crickets) into the hotel, you can be unceremoniously thrown out if you are discovered.
  2. Your vehicles is an unstable environment. You should never (and I mean NEVER) leave your chameleon in your car alone EVER (get your food from the drive-thru and continue on). No reason is good enough, no excuses.

With that settled, you may find that certain hotels or motels are willing to accommodate your request, though you may need to call around. Start with hotel chains that are known to be generally pet friendly, and work your way along from there. If you cannot find willing accommodations in the stopping city of choice, you may need to adjust where you plant to stop for the night based on finding suitable accommodations.

Travel in a Box, Spend Overnight in a Cage

As we discussed in our previous On the Road Again post, your chameleon may travel more comfortably in a smaller box that you can use to block out excess light. This can help encourage your chameleon to sleep through as much of the trip as possible. For longer trips, you should plan on regular checks to see if you need to mist inside the box to prevent dehydration.

Male #2 Calumma Parsoni Cristifer - Canvas Chameleons (6)Once you reach your stop for the night, you need to setup your chameleon in something more comfortable where he can be fed and hydrated in a fairly normal fashion. Ideally, he will also be able to spend some time in the light before you head to bed yourself.  This does not mean you need to bring out a full-sized cage if it is difficult to transport. Make sure your chameleon has some space to move around freely, but it is fine if this setup is smaller than his permanent enclosure.

Give him the opportunity to eat (he may not if he is feeling stressed), and provide a good misting. You will also need to make sure the temperature in the space is suitable, whether by cranking up the heat in the room or through the use of heat lamps and other standard options.

Once you have gotten your rest for the night, you will set your chameleon up in the box again, and plan for round two of the trip. Repeat as necessary until you reach your destination.

Ideally, you should try to get the trip over with as quickly as possible (while following any laws regarding speeding, and taking into consideration your need for sleep and overall safety). Once you arrive at your new location, be sure to setup your chameleons enclosure as one of your first steps, as putting him back in his usual space should help the adaptation period begin and will allow him to get comfortable in the new space.

 

 

https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel/pet-travel-home-page

https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Traveling-with-Your-Pet-FAQs.aspx

http://www.muchadoaboutchameleons.com/2014/01/traveling-with-chameleon.html

 

Need Another Hand? A Look at the Chameleon’s Prehensile Tail

At some point in our lives, we all wish we had an extra hand to help us through our day.  In the case of the chameleon, they essentially do.  It’s called a prehensile tail.

The term prehensile describes the tails ability to grasp objects.  A chameleon uses its prehensile tail to assist them as they move between branches while climbing through the trees, as well as using their tails to provide additional stability when they are perched.  The tail functions like a fifth appendage, providing support and assisting balance.

Unlike the prehensile tails of certain other species, chameleon tails function as a coil and cannot be moved in any direction it chooses.  The coiling action is what helps grab onto tree branches and other supports as it moves.  The tail forms a spiral around the object and the chameleon is able to squeeze the object for support.  This is particularly helpful when a chameleon is moving down a tree, as it allows the chameleon to climb in a vertical position.

Not All Chameleons Have Prehensile Tails

While the vast majority of chameleons do have prehensile tails the pygmy chameleons belonging to the genera Brookesia and Rhampholeon generally do not.  Being a pygmy chameleon does not automatically mean they will not have a prehensile tail, as smaller chameleons in the Bradypodion genus have quite long prehensile tails just like its larger-sized brethren.

Tail Curled Up?  I’m Resting

When a chameleon is at rest, the tail curls into a tight spiral.  It is not fully understood if this action is due to the fact that it makes the chameleon appear larger, possibly helping to ward off potential predators, or if it is simply a more comfortable position, it appears to be a common resting point for all chameleons with prehensile tails regardless of the genus.

Chameleons Cannot Regenerate Their Tails

While some species of lizards can regenerate their tails, with some being able to disconnect the ends of their tails at will to distract predators, a chameleon does not have this ability.  Since the tail has a more complex structure, allowing it to provide additional function beyond that of certain other lizards, the loss of its tail would be permanent.

In fact, the only species of vertebrates that can regenerate complex structures, such as those found in most limbs and tails, are those belonging to the family of Urodele amphibians.  Other lizards that are able to regenerate their tails are actually only able to regrow imperfect copies that do not have the same structure or abilities of the original.

Tails as a Sign of Health

A healthy chameleon’s tail will likely have a fairly strong coil, will exhibit similar coloring to the rest of the body, and will move properly for your chameleon’s needs.  If any changes to the tail are noted, it could be a sign that something is wrong.

Whether due to a physical injury or damage from an unknown cause, if your chameleon’s tail looks like it has seen better days, it is best to contact your veterinarian.  An abnormal sloughing or necrosis of the tip of the tail can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as a Vitamin A imbalance, which may require immediate professional treatment.

 

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-do-chameleons-regener/

http://www.torontozoo.com/ExploretheZoo/AnimalDetails.asp?pg=799

http://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/chameleon

https://www.britannica.com/animal/chameleon-reptile

http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=17+1796&aid=3027

 

Learn to Fly | Air Travel with Your Chameleon

Airplane in the sky at sunset

In a previous post, we reviewed how to travel with your chameleon during relatively short road trips, most applicable to those taking less than a day to complete.  Today, we are going to review what it takes to help your chameleon fly on a commercial aircraft.  Travel is part of the American paradigm.  Whether it is a cross-country move to pursue a new opportunity, or a quick visit during a summer vacation, the idea of traveling is ingrained within many societies.  With the desire to travel, often comes the occasional airline flight.

While many people are aware that cats and dogs can be flown from one location to another with relative ease, traveling with more exotic pets is not as well covered.  In order to provide some general guidance on what you may be able to expect when traveling with your chameleon, we offer the following basic guidelines to help you get started.

Airline Travel is Not Recommended

First, it is important to understand that commercial air travel is not an ideal situation in which to transport your chameleon.  Traveling by car, while stressful, provides an additional level of control as well as the ability to directly observe your chameleon for the duration of the trip.

It may also be worthwhile to check into specialty shipping services, as they may be able to provide a less stressful experience for your chameleon, and may be better equipped to manage any unforeseen situations that can arise.

Travel Restrictions

You will need to research if your destination, as well as any layover cities, have any requirements or restrictions regarding the transportation of animals into the area.  Not all states or countries permit exotic animals, and this restriction can include animals who are only passing through on a layover.  Before finalizing any travel arrangements, make sure that all points along the way are chameleon friendly.

Get an Appropriate Carrier

First, all animals must be transported in an approved carrier.  The carrier is designed to withstand the physical demands that may be placed upon it during transport and provides a level of physical protection to your chameleon.  You will need to include any required health information with the carrier, as dictated by the airline, and should make sure the carrier is clearly marked with your name and contact information, as well as marked as containing a live animal.

As with vehicle travel, it is ideal if you can make the space as dark as possible, as this may encourage your chameleon to sleep through much of the trip, though the airline may restrict anything that prevents them from having a way to examine the interior of the carrier.  Additionally, make sure your chameleon will have adequate traction, as you may not be able to secure a branch for them to climb on depending on the carrier involved.  Generally, if the carrier must be physically altered to add a branch, it may no longer be considered airline approved.

Contact the Airline Directly Once You Book the Flight

It is important to note that the information here is designed to provide an overview of common expectations or requirements.  Before attempting to travel with your chameleon, or any pet for that matter, it is critical to contact the airline directly to get more complete information regarding their standards.

Most airlines will require you to reserve space for your chameleon in advance, as airplanes may have limited capacity in regards to the transportation of animals.  This is due to the need for a pressurized and temperature controlled area, as not all baggage is transported in that way, and space is often filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Additional fees may apply.

A Chameleon will likely be Checked Baggage

The vast majority of airlines will not permit reptiles as carry-ons regardless of the size or the reptile or the carrier in which it is placed.  With that in mind, you will need to proceed under the assumption that it will likely be kept in an area with other animals, and that the journey will be considered a highly stressful event overall.

With that in mind, it is wise to avoid any unnecessary layovers, especially when a change of plane is involved.  Not only will this increase the total duration of the experience, but it also ups the stress level as the animal carrier will be handled more frequently.  When possible, try to get direct flights.

You should never attempt to sneak your chameleon (or any animal) onboard an aircraft at any time, regardless of the reason.  If you attempt to sneak your pet past a security checkpoint in order to bring them onboard, you pet may be confiscated when you are caught.

Convenience and Cost

Most people would not consider traveling with a chameleon on an airline particularly convenient, and the cost is often high.  Shipping a pet as checked baggage can easily cost upwards of $100 one-way.  Additionally, extreme heat or cold weather may make your pet ineligible to fly as the airline considers the situation to high risk.

If you really have no other options, flying with a chameleon can be done, but other options are likely to be both more cost effective and less stressful.  We will cover information on other transportation options in future posts, including long distance travel by car, as well as an introduction to pet shipping company practices.

 

 

http://apps.tsa.dhs.gov/mytsa/cib_results.aspx?search=lizard

http://www.hartz.com/Reptiles/Getting_Started/Your_Pet_Lizard_on_the_Road_How_to_Travel_With_Your_Bearded_Dragon.aspx

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2006/08/real_snakes_real_planes.html

https://www.aa.com/i18n/travel-info/special-assistance/pets.jsp

 

 

 

Fast Food | How the Chameleon’s Tongue Catches Prey

 

While most people have heard that the sticky, rough texture of a chameleon’s tongue is the main reason it is able to snag its prey, there is actually a lot more to it than that.  A series of subtle changes, often only observable after the feat is recorded with a high-speed camera, are actually much more responsible for the win than just the tongues texture.  Here, we take a look at what makes a chameleon’s tongue such an excellent hunting weapon.

Tongue Design

The tongue of a chameleon is quite long, with some chameleon’s having tongues that stretch as far as one and a half time their body length.  The core contains a small segment of bone at the base, some collagen, and various muscular structures.

A series of sheaths built around the collagen can be retracted, creating a source of stored energy similar to the energy creating when a person pulls back on the string of a bow which allows the tongue to move faster than it could through the use of muscle power alone.  That stored energy can then be used to project the tongue forward, out of the mouth, with the ultimate goal of contacting, and capturing, their targeted prey.

High Speed Action

Part of the reason a high-speed camera is required is the sheer speed at which the action takes place.  Based on the research of two Dutch biologist, it is estimated that a chameleon’s tongue reaches speeds of over 13 miles per hour.  A special section of highly elastic collagen tissue exists within the tongue that creates what is referred to as a biological “catapult” that assists in accelerating the tongue at speeds well beyond those of that can be achieved through the use of muscle alone.

As the tongue leaves the chameleon’s mouth, the tip is convex, similar to the shape of the tip of a bullet.  As the tip of the tongue approaches its target, a set of muscles within the tongue, referred to as pouch retractors, contract quickly.  This pulls the tip of the tongue inward, creating a concave shape.

africa-1170043Why the Shape Change Matters

As the tongue shifts from convex to concave in shape as it just begins to contact its prey, it creates an area that functions like a suction cup.  This suction helps secure the prey on the tip of the tongue, allowing it to be pulled toward the mouth for feeding.

The force of the suction allows a chameleon to capture prey that it could not catch if the tongue was just sticky.  For example, certain insects have smooth surfaces, which would make them more difficult to capture through the tongue’s texture alone.  The suction also allows a chameleon the opportunity to hunt larger prey, such as birds and lizards, which can weight around 10 percent of the chameleon’s own body weight.

With the chameleon’s unique tongue design is just one part of the overall package that makes chameleons strong hunters.  Combined with their eyes that can locate, track, and target prey located within a 360 degree range, and it can be difficult to for prey to escape this speedy eater.

 

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-chameleons-secret-wea/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/05/0519_040519_tvchameleons.html

http://www.asknature.org/strategy/2ecc0bc750f8f5a2424d1d6405ebb992