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Biophysics

Chameleons' sticky spit grabs prey

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

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.

Nature Phys. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nphys3795 (2016)

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Chameleons' sticky spit grabs prey. Nature 534, 438 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/534438a

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