Small lizard packs powerful tongue | Science News

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Small lizard packs powerful tongue

9:00am, January 8, 2016
Rhampholeon spinosus

Like other chameleons, Rhampholeon spinosus (shown) probably achieves astounding power and acceleration of its tongue by contracting and stretching elastic tissue to load the tongue with potential energy like a catapult. 

Size matters for chameleons and their projectile tongues.

Christopher Anderson, a biologist at Brown University in Providence, R.I., observed 20 chameleon species feeding on crickets and found that smaller lizards shot their tongues proportionally farther and faster than larger lizards. The small Tanzanian Rhampholeon spinosus accelerates its tongue 2,590 meters per second per second with a power output of 14,040 watts per kilogram of muscle — the strongest movement on record for any reptile, bird or mammal, Anderson writes January 4 in Scientific Reports.

The new report refines estimates of the power output of chameleon tongues reported last year (SN: 2/7/15, p. 12). 

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