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Existence of God: Design in Animals

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The Chameleon's Incredible (Tongue) Acceleration!

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

We have all seen images of fighter pilots dressed in flight suits scrambling into jet planes, followed by incredible images of those planes doing multiple rolls, steep climbs, and harrowing dives. The pilots’ suits are not just “uniforms” designed to allow us to easily distinguish those who fly the planes. Rather, they are specially designed flying suits, often called anti-g suits, which are able to counter the extreme pressure experienced in the abdomen and legs. High speed, by itself, does not produce harmful symptoms. The danger comes from high-speed accelerations (often expressed as multiples of gravity or g’s). During rapid acceleration, under increased g’s, the blood does not flow normally; thus, flight suits are needed to counteract the tendency for blood to accumulate in the legs and abdomen. A sustained force of 4-6 g’s often will result in symptoms ranging from visual impairment to total blackout. In pulling out of dives, pilots have even been measured sustaining accelerations as high as 9 g’s.

Now imagine multiplying that acceleration by a factor of five. That’s the acceleration released by the tongue of the chameleon as it aims for a fly on a nearby branch. Menno Schilthuizen noted that the tip of the chameleon’s tongue “accelerates with up to 50 g, five times the acceleration a fighter jet can reach” (2004). Commenting on this recent discovery, Schilthuizen observed: “But in a paper to be published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (Series B), two morphologists studying the lizard’s feeding behavior show that hidden forces are at work. Jurriaan de Groot of Leiden University and Johan van Leeuwen of Wageningen University, the Netherlands, took high-speed x-ray films of chameleons catching prey” (2004). In fact, they used film that captured images at 500 frames per second, just to get a picture of what was happening in this amazing animal. Given that fighter jets were purposely designed by men, and have been refined through the past decades in an effort to make them faster and more stream-lined, the question becomes: How is a simple reptile able to achieve five times the acceleration power of massive fighter jets? And it is not just the tongue’s speed that is impressive. The ballistic tongue of the chameleon is stretchable to almost twice the animal’s length!

Evolutionists are now faced with the daunting task of explaining not just how the chameleon evolved the ability to change its skin color, and how it is able to rotate each of its eyes independently, but also how it was able to evolve an organ that can hunt down prey at speeds of up to 50 g’s. This quick speed was originally attributed to a large accelerator muscle located in the tongue. But as Schilthuizen admitted, “the researchers calculated that the accelerator muscle is nowhere near powerful enough to do all the work” (2004). The key lies in ten newly discovered slippery sheaths that are located between the accelerator muscle and the tongue bone. Schilthuizen explained:

The sheaths, which are attached to the tongue bone at the end closest to the chameleon’s mouth, proved to contain spirally wound protein fibers that are squeezed out of shape when the accelerator contracts, storing energy like a stretched rubber band. When the stressed and lengthened sheaths reach the rounded end of the tongue bone, they slip off simultaneously and contract with force, while constantly pushing the tongue off the rod. Just after they have slipped off the tongue bone, the sheaths, which are arranged in a staggered fashion, fall apart like the tubes of a telescope, thus allowing the tongue its maximum stretch. It is a sort of telescopic catapult (2004).

How can anyone listen to the description of such an apparatus and not see purposive design? This remarkable feat screams “intelligent design,” and yet evolutionists refuse to admit such. Instead, they are left with the overwhelming task of explaining: (1) how each of these sheaths evolved into the right position; (2) how the tongue grew so long; (3) how the accelerator muscle came into existence; (4) how the ten sheaths coordinated their actions allowing the tongue to reach its maximum length; (5) how the sheaths developed the ability to “fall apart like tubes of a telescope”; (6) how the animal is able to reassemble all of these components after “launching” the tongue; (7) why other animals did not evolve similar hunting methods; and (8) how the chameleon (or its supposed transitional ancestor) survived while all these various parts were busy “evolving”? Oh, and then after that, they can address the whole skin/pigment issue and the eye rotation thing. Surely, there must be a point at which intelligent men look at the evidence before them and admit that such complexity/design requires an intelligent Designer!


Schilthuizen, Menno (2004), “Slip of the Chameleon’s Tongue,” Science Now, [On-line], URL:

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