Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Chameleons’ Secret Hunting Weapon: Super-Sticky Mucus

A thick, honey-like adhesive at the tip of a chameleon’s tongue lets it bring its prey to its mouth after snagging it, scientists discover.

 By Carrie Arnold


Chameleons have a sticky problem.
To catch their insect dinner, their tongues unfurl forward faster than a jet plane. It’s a precise attack, and it’s remarkably successful. But snagging prey with their tongue is only the first step. In order to eat, they have to bring the prey back to their mouth.

There lies the problem, says physicist Pascal Damman of the University of Mons in Belgium. Chameleons don’t wrap their tongues around their prey, which means that the food they catch must somehow stick to their tongue.

In a new paper in Nature Physics, Damman and colleagues show that chameleons produce a viscous, sticky mucus on the tip of their tongue that’s 400 times thicker than human saliva. Tiny amounts of this syrupy goo with the thickness of honey is what lets these animals catch prey that can weigh up to one-third their body weight.

“It’s a very simple mechanism, and it shows things don’t have to be very complex to be very effective,” he said.

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