Friday mystery object #18 answer

Happy Monday one and all! Last Friday was a busy day for me as it was the day of the prize-giving event for the winners of the photographic competition that was part of the series of Darwin bicentenary events I have been heading up at the Horniman. I expect I will blog about that in the very near future, but for now I will drop links to the BBC news and Guardian websites which are hosting slideshows of the winning and commended entries. As a result of all my busyness I had little time to field questions, but thankfully I didn’t really need to, since most people worked it out without much trouble.

This little fella is indeed a common chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon). Chameleons are amazing animals, with a suite of bizarre characteristics. Most famously perhaps is their ability to change colour – a feature that is more about thermoregulation and communication than camouflage (the usually cited reason) – indeed the camouflage is somewhat incidental, since when in shade they become darker in order to absorb more heat and when in direct light they go lighter to reflect heat (presumably the give-away being that if they are cold and move into the light they stay dark until they are at the right temperature). Anole lizards can also change colour, but with far less sophistication. Other bizarre adaptations include a muscular tongue that is as long as the body and which shoots out and grabs prey with a suction cup at the tip; a zygodactyl foot which has two fused toes on one side and three on the other; a long prehensile tail that acts like a fifth limb when climbing, and eyes mounted on turrets that can move independently (which allows both the all-round vision needed for predator avoidance, but also the stereoscopic vision needed to judge distances accurately for prey capture). These guys are odd.

So well done to all of you who got it – excellent work! Hopefully this week I might be able to offer more of a challenge for you!

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