*To gain a greater appreciation for the post, be sure to read the previous “Evolutionary Mash-ups” posts about giraffe necks and dragonfly wings. I take the best adaptations natural selections has to offer and combine them into one animal. At the end of the month, check out my post where I combine all four “Evolutionary Mash-ups” animals into one overwhelming beast.
Imagine all the benefits of living a life with the ability to stretch your tongue up to 1.5 times your body length. For me, that would be about an 8.9 foot long tongue! Some immediate benefits would be grabbing seconds during dinner time without leaving the dinner table. Or endless pranks by tapping on someone’s shoulder with your tongue 8 feet away and then seeing their reaction as no one is there! Alright, so the benefits are not that grand for humans to have an incredibly long and stretchy tongue. That is why our genes have never coded for long tongues, we haven’t needed one to survive. But the veiled chameleon requires a long stretchy tongue, along with a few other unique adaptations, in order for it to survive.
Besides a long and sticky tongue, there are other adaptations that make the veiled chameleon a dominant survivor on this planet. Their skin is similar to an incredibly complex mood ring. They have 14 distinct areas on their bodies that can change color independently of each other. They can change colors to communicate with other chameleons and to signal fear, danger, or even sleep. They also have 360-degree vision. Their cone-shaped eyes with an opening for the eye in the middle allows them to see in all possible directions. They can also move their eyes independently of each other, which means they can look at two different objects at once! This also means they can remain perfectly still while observing prey (or predators) from any possible direction. Their color-changing abilities and their extraordinary vision make them formidable foes to any insect that comes near.
Now let’s take a closer look at the lightning-fast, bug snatching, unfathomably long tongue of a veiled chameleon. First, the tongue is very sticky. Upon contact with prey, the tongue will instantly attach itself to the prey (in this case, insects) and the prey has no hope of escaping. Second, the tongue is lightning fast. Some smaller chameleons can shoot their tongues out at speeds approaching 60 mph within a hundredth of a second. The veiled chameleon is a bit slower, but still surprisingly quick. The veiled chameleon can shoot out its tongue to full extension and snag a bug within about half a second. Third, the tongue can extend to a jaw-dropping length and is quite strong. The veiled chameleon can extend its tongue to 1.5 times its body length and can reel in insects weighing up to half its body weight. One thing is for certain, I would hate to be an insect living in the Southwestern Arabian Peninsula where these lizards call home.
The giraffe mixed with the wings of a dragonfly and the tongue of a chameleon would be by far the most dominant herbivore this planet has ever seen. Not only does it have an incredibly long neck and super advanced wings to help it gather food, but now it has a tongue that can extend 1.5 times its body length! That’s right, this creature’s tongue can extend up to 29 feet in length! Any animal in the same area competing for the same food as the mash-up giraffe would be toast and most likely starve before beating the giraffe to the food. With a tongue that long, the giraffe hybrid may even be able to use it to help ward off predators. But as far as defense goes, the mash-up giraffe has one final adaptation coming its way next week that will solve that problem. Stay tuned!
- National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia. 2012.
If you read this whole blog post, you are my hero! Thanks for reading. Please feel free to leave me a comment and feedback below. Also, let me know if there is any particular science topic you would like me to look at “through green tinted glasses” and I will write about it.