Science Buzz

This tiny chameleon has the ultimate high-speed tongue!

Chameleon Rhampholeon spinosus flicking its tongue out at an insect

Research has identified the tiny chameleon Rhampholeon spinosus as having the ultimate high-speed tongue. When it flicks its tongue at a fly, it reaches peak acceleration 264 times the force of gravity. In comparison, NASA’s shuttle delivered astronauts into orbit with a peak acceleration of only 3g. The F-16 jet fighter only reaches 7g in pulling out of a dive. The acceleration of a chameleon’s tongue is the equivalent of getting from 0 to 60 mph in a hundredth of a second. But in the course of sticking out its tongue to 2.5 times its own body length, at a peak acceleration of 486 m/sec2, it generates the highest yet measured acceleration and power output per kilogram of muscle mass of any reptile, bird or mammal: 14,040 watts per kilo, making it second only to the most powerful vertebrate tongue of all, that of the salamander.