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  • Panther chameleon shoots an insect at Zoo Zurich.

    Structure of the chameleon tongue

    The chameleon can extend its tongue to up to two body lengths in a fraction of a second at speeds of up to 5.8 m/s. The acceleration of up to 250 G (!) is one of the fastest movements in the animal kingdom.

    To generate such an acceleration, muscle power alone is not enough. The structure of the tongue is crucial. And this is very complicated in the chameleon.

    To decipher the structure of the tongue, researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI and EMPA are using various X-ray imaging methods. Thanks to them, the researchers can see deep into the smallest structures. Zoo Zurich provides the researchers with animals that have died anyway.

    Graphic representation of the tongue structure of the panther chameleon.

    The chameleon's tongue is a marvel. Researchers use X-ray analyses to examine the structure of the tongue down to the smallest detail. Graphic: Marianne Liebi (PSI/EPFL), Jonathan Avaro (EMPA)

    More information about the project at the Paul Scherrer Institute:

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