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Issue Features
Discovery Magazine 2/1/1994


Dinner From A Distance

by  Garry K. Brantley, M.A., M.Div.

The forest is filled with activity. All kinds of lively insects go about their business. A predator quietly clings to a branch. Only its eyes move, watching for its next meal. You can hardly see it because it blends in with its surroundings so well. A grasshopper lands on a twig within range. In a flash, the predator's long, lightening-quick tongue grabs its unsuspecting victim. Slurp! The chameleon has caught its dinner.
Chameleons (kuh-ME-lee-unz) have several specially-designed features that make them excellent hunters. A chameleon's tongue can be the length of its body, which allows it to catch its dinner from a distance. The tongue has a club-shaped, sticky tip, which captures the prey. It shoots out and returns so quickly that the human eye can hardly see it. In fact, a chameleon can stick out and bring back a five-inch-long tongue in less than half a second. That's fast! A special bone in a chameleon's jaw, and powerful muscles, allow the tongue to move so quickly.
Also, they can move their eyes separately. One eye can look forward, while the other looks down or moves back and forth. So, a chameleon can stalk a tasty insect with one eye, while the other looks for its next meal. When it is ready to grab its prey, the chameleon looks at its victim with both eyes. Then it flicks out its tongue and "reels in" its supper.
Tree-dwelling chameleons' toes are joined so that they look like pincers, which allows them to grasp tree branches. They also can  wrap their long, grasping tails around twigs or branches. These features let chameleons balance perfectly still while stalking their prey.
These creatures are most famous for their ability to change colors. They do this by increasing and decreasing the size of special pigment cells in their skin. People once thought that chameleons changed colors to match their surroundings. But scientists have discovered that their color change is due to a change in light or temperature. Also, chameleons communicate their different moods by changing colors. A frightened or upset chameleon usually turns darker, or displays spots or stripes. After an fight, an excited chameleon might turn a bright green. It also turns brighter colors when it wants to mate. So by changing colors, they "talk" to each other without making a sound.
In a way, chameleons also "talk" to us. Their specially-designed features tell us about the wisdom and power of God Who made them. Let's make sure that we "hear" what they say about Him!



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