Hugo The Hunter


Hugo is always hunting.


He sees a cricket and is a millisecond away from projecting his tongue to capture it.


In the photo above, the long projectile coming out of his mouth

is the thin portion of his long tongue.

In the first photo in the gallery below, you can see where it joins the big muscle at the end.


Above, he has just retracted his tongue with a cricket stuck to the cup-like, sticky end of it.

In less than a second, the tongue accelerates to thirteen miles an hour!

Really too fast for the human eye to see the real structure of the tongue.

In the first photo above, his tongue has extended and captured a cricket on the muscular end.

In the second photo, he is retracting the tongue with the cricket attached to the sticky saliva on the end.

In the third photo, he is finishing off the process of retracting his tongue

that coils in his mouth like a rope.

I am particularly fascinated by the first photo.

I wondered how that fat muscle on the end of the tongue fit in his mouth!

Now, I see that the real extension part of the tongue is much smaller.

For a more complete and short explanation of the structure of the chameleon tongue,

see Features of a Chameleon’s Tongue

Scientists are studying the mechanism of the chameleon tongue

to learn more about improving robotic designs, according to this article.

(Bet you folks thought the chameleon was much sweeter before you saw the tongue in operation!)


45 Comments on “Hugo The Hunter

  1. Oh my, how serendipitous! Just last night I was watching something on PBS about chameleons and of course, I thought of you. They had some amazing video of the chameleon’s eyes and even of their mating/greeting colors. The video of the tongue was pretty amazing, but I must congratulate you on your successful still recording of that process. What a feat. I wonder just how many images you shot to get that fabulous series of 3. Did you have your camera set to continuous shutter release? Very cool, both you and your chameleon buddy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Linda. I will find the piece on PBS. Actually, I shot a handful to get the photos. Yes, continuous shutter release. I had no idea whether any photo would be usable. The tongue action happens so fast that there isn’t time to get the shots unless the shutter speed is really fast. I have no experience with action photography. I suppose I just got lucky to get these! It’s hard to find Sam catching crickets because he is so lazy. I think he waits for the cricket to waltz by! Hugo has been on a diet that restricted the number of crickets that he was fed every day, and none on Sundays. That makes him an aggressive hunter. When food is plentiful, all animals get lazy, including humans! Hugo will eat directly out of the cup that I use to release the crickets. Sam ignores the cup and climbs onto my hand to climb up to my head! Each has his own personality. That’s true of the dragons too. Sam is my favorite, of course because he is not afraid of me. 🙂 Hugo is inclined to hide behind foliage while Sam never hides. Chuckle… Thank you for always being so supportive, Linda!


      • I’ve never had the opportunity to observe reptilian personalities. I live vicariously through your wonderful observations and skillful photography.


    • They are fascinating, Debra. I love watching them. I am always snapping photos of whatever they’re doing. I’m also always doing something for them. Along with all of the other animals in my “zoo”. Together, they consume most of my day! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂


    • Hey, thanks RoSy! The chameleon tongue is a mechanical wonder and something of a mystery too. But, I think having an abused body work for 72 years is something of a wonder too! Chuckle… I laughed when I saw your other profile photo. The infamous community window lamp…. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Celia. I know. It does seem impossible to extend the tongue that far and to retract and coil it in the mouth like a rope. Thanks for stopping by. And thank you for your comments on FB too! 🙂


    • Thanks, Richard. Scientists are studying the biomechanics of the tongue, as I said. It does work like a machine. But so do our bodies. Hugo fires up easily. Sam does not. Sam is far more laid back than Hugo. I’ve only seen Sam fire up twice! He’s the sweet one. Chuckle…


    • Ah, thank you,Rob! Mr. Hugo is an aggressive hunter. It’s hard to capture Sam catching a cricket. He’s lazy and kind of waits around for them to waltz by him! I’ve fed him too much, I suppose. The breeder for Hugo only fed 12-15 crickets a day and nothing on Sundays! They’re the experts. I just feed my animals what they want when they want it! Chuckle… Nothing wrong with living in the “land of plenty” if you’re a chameleon, in my humble opinion! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That tongue is the most amazing thing I’ve seen!!! He’s really an interesting looking little thing. I guess the head is elongated front to back to store all that tongue!!! I’m impressed that you got all those shots so well. You recall that Kelli and I tried to hide in order to catch Sam with his tongue out. Maybe Hugo is just more laid back. I can’t wait to see him…and all the other creatures.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, I’ve rarely seen Sam catch a cricket. He’s the laid-back one. Hugo is an aggressive hunter. He’s so focused on catching the bug that he pays no attention to the camera usually. I suppose he’s gotten used to it now. I’m not supposed to feed more than 12-15 crickets a day, but there must be thirty or more in Hugo’s cage! How the heck do you capture and count crickets? It’s all I can do to shake some into a cup off the egg crates that they hide under! A great many escape into the house! He’s a Panther and Sam is a Veiled. They behave essentially the same, but Hugo is much more aggressive. I guess I was just lucky that some of the frames got the photos that I wanted. You have to use a high shutter speed and hope… 🙂


    • Hi, Andy! Thanks. I’m so shaky that I really didn’t expect to get the shots I wanted, but I jacked up the shutter speed and hoped I’d get a couple of usable frames. The Chameleons are fascinating creatures to watch. I really do enjoy them. Thanks for stopping by, Andy!


        • Thank you, Paula. I kind of tired of the green palm thing that I had for so long. I love what you are doing on your blog by showcasing other photographer’s work through the challenges. Very interesting stuff. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂


          • I appreciate that you had a look George. Your photos are always inspiring, and your love of nature shows. How is your parrot?


    • If I were a world traveler, I’d take you with me. Nobody can make me laugh the way you do, Lorna! I thought the same thing, but I suspected that you’d find a clever way to say it for me! And, damn! You came through. I’m still grinning!


  3. Ahh … OK … that makes sense. So … the thing must sit in the mouth, coiled, and under no tension. When the little guy wants to shoot the tongue at a prey item, accelerator muscles tighten the whole thing against a bit of collagen which is inside the tongue itself. This compression of the collagen acts to store the energy of potential … much like a spring. When the animal wants to shoot, it simply relaxes the accelerator muscles and this releases the potential from the ‘spring’ and out the tongue goes. This action extends the retractor muscles which are then free to contract and bring the tongue back! And the cycle goes round and around! So … it’s that little piece of collagen that is the secrete – a natural spring! Don’t you love solving a mystery? D

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha! I knew this would interest you. I’m astounded that I was able to get a reasonably clean photo of any of it since the camera does the St. Vitus Dance if I have to hold it up to wait for the action to start. I wanted to see it slowed down. I couldn’t imagine how that tongue could extend one and a half or twice the length of the Chameleon’s body. That’s incredible engineering! Thanks for the explanation.


      • That’s an area of Biology that I have always, always, been interested in … it’s called Biomechanics and is all about how animals work … kind of like figuring out how any machine works. There’s always a reasonable explanation. Thanks for a really cool post and for making me learn something today! D

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m going to have to take a look at that link. How the little guy gets his tongue back in is easy … muscle contraction. But … getting the thing out in the first place is, right now, a bit of a mystery to me. The only real possibility is that the thing is hydraulic. If so, I don’t know that I know of any other mechanism of hydraulic extension which is so rapid (for example, compare this pace with that with which a clam can extend its foot … talk about SLOW). I’ll be back with another comment once I learn more of this mystery mechanism. D

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sue. Actually, I wanted to see how the tongue works for myself, and you can’t see it with the naked eye. The tongue is out and the insect is back in his mouth in the blink of an eye. The only way to see it is to photograph it with the camera set on a lot of frames a second! Then, you hope you get a frame that has what you want to see in it! These little creatures are absolutely fascinating to watch! Thanks for stopping by to visit us! 🙂


    • Thank you, Ute. The Chameleons are fascinating creatures. I love watching their behaviors. Each one is very different from the other. They have different personalities! You would enjoy them too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • thanks amiga.. i also have a fondness to the iguanas and geckos of my area.. about six years ago one small green iguana got caught in the chicken wire that protected the swiss chard. he had stuffed himself and was truly stuck as he tried to leave. i clipped the wire, and he (she?) remained motionless for about five minutes, then it emerged from catatonic state and raced away.

      now when i see a large one sunning on the rocks, i wonder, ‘are you the one?’

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Zeeb! You’d laugh if you saw me photographing him. I have a bad hand tremor so the camera looks as if it’s doing the St. Vitus Dance! It’s remarkable that I got anything recognizable! Chuckle… He’s a cute little guy and fascinating to watch. I enjoy both of them so much. Irma helps me to take care of the animals now. If she didn’t, I couldn’t keep them. I think about you often and hope everything with you is good. You’ve seen and photographed so many interesting animals. And the paintings! Wonderful stuff! 🙂



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