Elastic collagen tissue provides an edge over other cold-blooded hunters
Cool weather typically weakens muscle power in cold-blooded creatures, but new data show that chameleons can nab prey even at near-freezing temperatures thanks to an elastic, energy-storing sheath of collagen inside their tongues.
Although most chameleons live in warm climates, some live in alpine ecosystems and can feed when their body temperatures are as low as 3.5° Celsius — a trick that scientists haven’t been able to explain, says Christopher V. Anderson, a biologist at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
Now, data suggest that the chameleon’s trick lies in a clump of rubbery tissue at the base of its tongue. Using elastic collagen instead of muscle po