Cameleon Tongues – Another Example of Amazing Design

A chameleon using its tongue

The design we see in nature is powerful evidence for the existence of God. Indeed, it is so powerful that it forced world-renowned atheist Antony Flew to admit his lifetime of scholarship was wrong and that God must exist. The more we learn about this planet and the life on it, the more we stand in awe of that amazing design. The chameleon is an excellent example of this trend. For a long time, scientists have known about the amazing design features of the chameleon. The more we learn, however, the more amazing chameleons become!

For quite some time, biologists have puzzled over why a chameleon’s tongue is not affected by the temperature. After all, chameleons are cold-blooded. In other words, they cannot regulate their internal body temperature. As a result, their internal body temperature changes with the temperature of their surroundings. The colder the surroundings get, the colder the internal temperature of a chameleon gets.

Well, the colder the temperature, the slower the chemical reactions that power an animal’s muscles. Because of this, cold-blooded animals show a significant reduction in muscle action the colder the surroundings become. However, a chameleon’s tongue shows no significant reduction in action, even when the temperature dips almost to the freezing point of water! This is strange, because the tongue is a muscle, and all the chameleon’s other muscles are affected by temperature. Why not the tongue? Biologists now know the answer to that question, and it is remarkable.

Science News recently reported1 that researcher from the University of South Florida in Tampa found that a chameleon’s tongue contains a sheath of elastic collagen. When the chameleon retracts its tongue, the muscles work hard, because they are compressing the collagen. This stores energy, much like the compression of a spring.

When the chameleon wants to shoot its tongue out of its mouth to nab its prey, it doesn’t rely as much on its muscles. Instead, it relies on all that stored energy in the elastic collagen that is in its tongue. So the elastic collagen stores up a lot of energy as it is being compressed, and then when it is released, the energy stretches out the collagen, and the tongue along with it. As the author of the Science News article states:

Using elastic collagen instead of muscle power to shoot its tongue at prey lets a chameleon catch breakfast even when its muscles are stiff from the cold…

Of course, this is just what you would expect from a Master Designer. God knows that the chameleon needs a fast tongue to catch its prey. It doesn’t need to retract its tongue quickly. After all, once the prey is caught, a few more seconds to “reel it in” won’t matter. However, even a fraction of a second too slow when it comes to shooting out its tongue, and the prey is never caught. As a result, God designed a system that allows the muscles to work on retraction, but not so much when it comes to shooting the tongue out of the mouth. We live in an amazingly-engineered world!


1. Sid Perkins, “How Chameleons Hunt with a Snap,” Science News, April 10, 2010, p. 14.
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  1. Roger Hicks April 19, 2010 11:57 pm

    I’m glad I stumbled upon your blog. I had the privilege of hearing you speak (the topic was “Eco-Hysteria”) at the CHEC homeschool conference in 2008, but was pleasantly surprised to find your blog with extensive information on creation science. Plus – your hobbies are theatre and WOW, so you can’t be a bad guy, LOL (by the way, if you’re ever on the Venture Co. server look my up – my character is Bobberus)

    I was wondering if you might address a specific topic: the distant starlight problem. I’ve seen this used several times by athiests and Darwinian evolutionsists and would love to hear your take on it.

    Many thanks!

    • jlwile April 20, 2010 3:14 pm

      Hi Roger. Thanks for commenting! Ben is right. The “Starlight and Time” book is an excellent one. Essentially, the idea is that the universe was birthed from a white hole, which is the reverse of a black hole. Both structures are allowed by the equations of general relativity. In this scenario, if you assume a spherical expansion of the universe (which is NOT what the big bang assumes), you get the interesting effect that time passes very slowly for anything near the center of the universe during the initial stages of universal expansion. As a result, billions of years can pass at the edges of the universe, while only thousands of years pass for objects near the center. This, of course, allows for a thousands-of-years old earth to see starlight from billions of light years away, as long as it is near the center of the universe. It is a sound theory from the standpoint of general relativity, but because it uses general relativity, it is kind of esoteric.

      Here is one summary of the theory. As is the case with robust scientific paradigms, there have been numerous variants of the theory produced, probably the most rigorous by John Hartnett.

  2. Ben Michael Fournier April 20, 2010 1:22 am

    Hey Roger, there is a fairly good book on the light transit time problem, Starlight and Time by Dr Russell Humphreys. Basically by assuming the universe has a center of gravity and an edge of matter, relativistic time dilation then plays a role. The red shifts indicate that objects were closer in the past, so the closer the objects the more pronounced the time dilation.

  3. Peter April 20, 2010 5:32 am

    I too used to be a creationist, until I had the facts laid out before me.

    Let’s Test Them: Evolution vs. Creationism

    Christianity & Biology

    • jlwile April 20, 2010 3:33 pm

      Peter, I was actually an evolutionist before I looked at the data. The data speak so strongly in favor of creation, however, there was no way I could keep my scientific integrity and still believe in evolution. As Dr. Michael Behe says, “You can be a good Catholic and believe in Darwininsm. Biochemistry has made it increasingly difficult, however, to be a thoughtful scientist and believe in it.” (Gerald L. Schroeder, The Science of God, Broadway Books, p. 27, 1997)

      If the links you gave are any indication of what “facts” were laid out before you, then you have really been duped. The YouTube video you sent doesn’t even get the predictions of creationism correct! For example, it claims that creation predicts no order in the fossil record. That is absolutely false. It makes very specific predictions about the order of the fossils in the fossil record, and those predictions are borne out by the data. Indeed, creationism provides a better representation of the fossil record than does evolution, as there is no need to make up such mythical things as “stratigraphic leaks,” “reworked specimens,” and “paraconformities” to explain around data that don’t fit the prediction.

      If you really want to learn what science says about origins, here are a couple of good primers that will show you just how well you have been duped:

      Hasn’t Evolution Been Proven True?

      Successful Predictions by Creation Scientists

  4. Ben Michael Fournier April 20, 2010 2:26 pm

    Peter, what do you consider the difference between premises and conclusions to be? What do you consider the difference between facts and interpretations to be?

  5. Peter April 20, 2010 4:55 pm

    Can you tell me which layers are considered post flood? Regarding the fossil record, why are flowering plants confined only to upper layers? And why is their pollen also confined to the same regions?

    Here’s a rebuttal to your stratigraphy article;

    Also, if that article so adequately explained the fossil record from a YEC perspective in 1999, why did Andrew Snelling say in 2008 that “nearly five decades after the Genesis Flood we still have no comprehensive model of earth history explaining the geologic (strata and fossil) record?”

    By the way, if you think Michael Behe is a trustworthy scientific source I can quote him right back at you.

    “When two lineages share what appears to be an arbitrary genetic accident, the case for common descent becomes compelling, just as the case for plagiarism becomes overpowering when one writer makes the same unusual misspellings of another, within a copy of the same words. That sort of evidence is seen in the genomes of chimps and chimpanzees. For example, both humans and chimps have a broken copy of a gene that in other mammals helps make vitamin C. As a result, neither humans nor chimps can make their own vitamin C. If an ancestor of the two species originally sustained the mutation and then passed it to both descendant species, that would neatly explain the situation.

    More compelling evidence for the shared ancestry of humans and other primates comes from their hemoglobin—not just their working hemoglobin, but a broken hemoglobin gene, too. …. In the region between the two gamma genes and a gene that works after birth, human DNA contains a broken gene (called a “psedugoene”) that closely resembles a working gene for a beta chain, but has features in its sequence that preclude it from coding successfully for a protein.

    Chimp DNA has a very similar pseudogene at the same position. The beginning of the human pseudogene has two particular changes in two nucleotides that seem to deactivate the gene. The chimp pseudogene has the exact same changes. A bit further down in the human pseudogene is a deletion mutation, where one particular letter is missing. For technical reasons, the deletion irrevocably messes up the gene’s coding. The very same letter is missing in the chimp gene. Toward the end of the human pseduogene another letter is missing. The chimp pseudogene is missing it, too.

    The same mistakes in the same gene in the same positions of both human and chimp DNA. If a common ancestor first sustained the mutational mistakes and subsequently gave rise to those two modern species, that would very readily account for why both species have them now. It’s hard to imagine how there could be stronger evidence for common ancestry of chimps and humans.

    That strong evidence from the pseudogene points well beyond the ancestry of humans. Despite some remaining puzzles, there’s no reason to doubt that Darwin had this point right, that all creatures on earth are biological relatives.”

    The Edge of Evolution?, pages 70-71.

    • jlwile April 20, 2010 9:39 pm

      Peter, I think you need to read a LOT more science before you start making comments, because you seem to be rather ignorant about what science has learned over the years. Because creationists stress real science, we don’t try to impose structure in geology when it isn’t there. So while evolutionists desperately try to link strata in different parts of the world because they are forced to assume the strata represent epochs of time, creationists follow the data. You cannot say all strata above a given layer in the geological column is post-flood, because geology depends on the region. In general, the Pleistocene is probably a good place to start thinking the geology is post flood. However, it would depend on region, since the layers of the fossil record are ecological zones, not epochs of time.

      Flowering plants are MOSTLY confined to the upper layers of the fossil record because, of course, they were fossilized at the later stages of the Flood, after the major marine ecological zones were fossilized. I am glad that you brought up the flowering plants, as your question, “And why is their pollen also confined to the same regions?” demonstrates both your ignorance of paleontology and a major problem for the evolutionary interpretation of the fossil record. You see, the pollen of flowering plants is NOT confined to the upper levels. Pollen has been found in layers much deeper than it should be. Of course, evolutionists “explain around” these kinds of “rabbits in the Cambrian” by calling them “stratigraphic leaks.” Creationists need not “explain around” the data, since pollen existed when all layers of rock were laid down, and since pollen travels well, it could be expected to be found in rocks that don’t correspond to flowering plant ecological zones.

      Your supposed “rebuttal” article is truly laughable. The article itself admits that it doesn’t deal with the real issues: “For most of the following sections, we will not discuss the intricacies of their arguments, but will only mention minor points.” It also makes demonstrably false statements like, “It is even hard to comprehend how any reputable scientist can sanely testify to a young earth, for they must do so by completely ignoring most of the evidence. ” There are several reputable scientists (including many geologists and paleontologists) who testify to a young earth, specifically because they look at the evidence. Indeed, it is old-earth scientists who ignore the evidence. Also, the article claims, “The authors continue their discussion, making the claim that ‘event-based stratigraphy’ is ‘strongly implied in the Bible.’ Where? There is no mention of any events that could cause a stratigraphic layer in the Bible outside the Flood, and the Flood does not mention any stratigraphy.” Once again, this statement is demonstrably false. The Bible discusses how the Flood involved the “fountains of the deep” erupting, which would definitely fossilize the ocean bottom first. Also, it discusses the floodwaters rising, which would mean the land-based ecosystems would be fossilized later. Thus, stratigraphy is, indeed, strongly implied.

      I think you need to start looking for more reasonable sources, as that article does nothing but show Greg Neyman’s ignorance.

      By the way, since you searched for a rebuttal article to the creationist stratigraphy article I sent you (probably rather than reading either article), that means you now agree that the YouTube link you sent me is drivel, since it specifically says creationists have no stratigraphy. I am glad that you have learned something already. I hope this trend continues!

      Snelling’s comment simply means that we don’t have all the details of geology worked out. That can be said of most scientific endeavors, especially severely underfunded ones. However, since the Flood model need not refer to mythical things like stratigraphic leaks, reworked specimens, and paraconformities, it is clearly a more scientific model than the current uniformitarian model.

      Micheal Behe is a trusted scientific source, but even trusted sources can be wrong. I consider Neils Bohr a trusted scientific source, but his model of the atom was wrong. Indeed, Darwin is a trusted source on many issues, because he provided excellent evidence and documentation for adaptation via natural selection. You see, I actually look at the data rather than simply listen to those I consider to be “high priests” of science. Rather than taking anyone’s word for something, I actually look at the evidence myself. You should try it sometime.

      Behe seems to have fallen into the trap that a lot of geneticists have fallen into – thinking that broken genes can only break once. That is a rather narrow view, and it certainly doesn’t stack with the evidence. In fact, many “shared mistakes” exist between rats and humans, but no one is touting that as evidence that they are closely related. Indeed, these “shared mistakes” are well understood in a creationist framework.

      So we see that a creationist view is certainly more reasonable in both genetics and geology. That’s why I am a creationist. To be an evolutionist would mean I have to ignore the majority of the data, and as a scientist, I simply cannot do that.