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Chameleons' sticky spit grabs prey

Nature volume 534, page 438 (23 June 2016) | Download Citation

Adhesive mucus allows chameleons to snare insects with their long tongues.

Image: Stephen Dalton/

Pascal Damman at the University of Mons in Belgium and his colleagues collected mucus from the tongue pads of veiled chameleons (Chamaeleo calyptratus; pictured) and found that it is 400 times more viscous than human saliva. Using a model of chameleon tongue strikes, the team estimated that the mucus allows the animal to capture insects that are up to 60% of its body size — larger than its natural prey.

The size of prey a chameleon can nab is therefore not limited by the stickiness of its tongue, the authors say.

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