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How Long Are Chameleons Tongues

Have you ever marveled at a chameleon’s long tongue?

Have you wondered how long a chameleon’s tongue is?

Chameleons have some of the most fascinating tongues in the animal kingdom.

How long are chameleon’s tongues?

The length of chameleon’s tongues varies, but they are as long as 1 to 2 times their body length.

Read on to learn more about how long a chameleon’s tongue is.

how long are chameleons tongues

How Does The Tongue Work

The length is not the only remarkable part of a chameleon’s tongue.

Special anatomy helps the chameleon use its incredible appendage to catch prey.

Read on to learn more about how a chameleon’s tongue can perform its incredible feats.

#1 Hyoid Bone

The chameleon’s incredibly long tongue is curled around the hyoid bone in the chameleon’s throat.

This provides a strong base for the tongue to attach to and keeps the tongue firmly in place when the tongue flies out of the chameleon’s mouth.

While resting in the chameleon’s mouth, the tongue fits neatly and snugly and does not get in the way of a chameleon’s daily activities.

#2 Accelerator Muscle

A chameleon’s tongue has a unique muscle scientists call the accelerator muscle.

This muscle is made of crisscrossed fibers coiled around the hyoid bone when the tongue is relaxed, and contract to build up force when a chameleon is getting ready to shoot their tongue out of their mouth.

In the process of contracting, the accelerator muscle flattens and builds up an incredible amount of force.

Once the force is built up, the tongue is released and flies out of the mouth towards its prey.

Once prey is caught, the accelerator muscles pull the tongue back into the chameleon’s mouth.

#3 Sticky Surface

The surface of the chameleon’s tongue is remarkably sticky.

The tip of a chameleon’s tongue is coated in mucus chameleons produce, which is 400 times thicker than human saliva.

When a chameleon rockets its long tongue towards its prey, unsuspecting crickets and worms will find themselves glued to the end of the chameleon’s tongue.

This allows chameleons to catch prey from farther distances.

This is important for chameleons because they need efficient ways to trap their prey, not being able to move their bodies very quickly.

Their sticky tongues mean they can sneak up on unsuspecting prey and rocket their tongues to catch them.

Amazing Tongue Features

In addition to being incredibly long, a chameleon’s tongue is also special for a few other reasons.

Read on to learn more about the incredible abilities of a chameleon’s tongue.

#1 Speed

The speed of a chameleon’s tongue cannot be understated.

A chameleon’s tongue can travel as fast as 60 miles an hour as it is exiting a chameleon’s mouth.

It travels this speed in only a hundredth of a second, making it a true marvel.

According to scientific research, the smaller the chameleon, the faster the tongue.

This is because smaller chameleons have less energy to burn than larger chameleons, and must have stronger and faster tongues to catch their prey more efficiently.

Incredibly, chameleons have the highest acceleration per kilogram of muscle mass of any bird, reptile, or mammal.

This means the chameleon’s tongue acceleration is up to two times faster than the fastest sports car.

#2 Force

The force with which a chameleon launches its tongue is massive and is one of the reasons scientists and pet owners have been so fascinated with chameleon tongues.

With the capability to travel 8,000 feet per second, the chameleon can push its tongue out of its mouth with ballistic force.

This force is necessary to propel the tongue quickly and efficiently.

Fast-moving insects are a difficult target for predators, but the force behind a chameleon’s sticky tongue helps it catch even the fastest critters.

#3 Length

The length of the tongue will vary from species to species, but a chameleon’s tongue is generally 1 to 1.5 times its body length.

This, combined with the tongues elasticity and force, means chameleons can catch prey from distances as far as two times its body length away.

Thanks to chameleon’s specialized anatomy, this lengthy tongue can stay neatly tucked away in its mouth, coiled around the hyoid bone, until the chameleon needs to use it.

Which Species Has the Longest Tongue

While all species of chameleons have long tongues, there are a few which are especially lengthy.

Here are a few of the chameleons with the longest tongues.

#1 Larger Species

The larger the chameleon, the longer the tongue.

Species like the Parson’s chameleon and the Oustalet’s chameleon, which are two of the largest on earth, can have tongues as long as 4′ feet.

These larger species do not necessarily have the longest tongues in comparison to their body length, and they simply have the longest tongues because they are the largest.

If humans were to have tongues comparable in comparison to our body size, we would have 10′ to 12′ foot tongues.

#2 Smaller Species

Some smaller species have tongues up to 2 times their body length, just like the larger species.

However, these species are known to have more power in their tongues than larger species.

The Rhampholeon spinosus chameleon has the most powerful tongue of all.

The tongue of this species had 264 times greater acceleration than an object experiences from gravity.

This is significantly more than the tongues of the larger species.


Chameleon tongues are incredible, not only for their force and acceleration but because they are some of the longest in the animal kingdom.

Relative to their body length, chameleons have the longest tongue of any mammal, reptile, or bird.

A chameleon’s tongue is between 1 and 2 times its body length, meaning some of the largest chameleon tongues can reach up to 4′ feet.

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