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Flap-necked Chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis) catching prey, Midlands, KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa

Which animal has the longest tongue relative to its total size?

Flap-necked Chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis) catching prey, Midlands, KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa

Flap-necked Chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis) catching prey, Midlands, KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa

Relative to body length, it’s the chameleon. Chameleons catch insects by firing their sticky tongues at them, and range is extremely important, because even a stealthy chameleon can only get so close to a fly without startling it. Some species have tongues that are 70 centimetres (28 inches) long; that can be twice the length of their body, and as long as the tongue of a giant anteater. But chameleons also have very long tails and, if you include this in the measure of body size, then the tongue drops to ‘only’ the same as the total body length. In that case, the record would have to go to the tube-lipped nectar bat. This is just 5.5 centimetres (2.2 inches) long, but its tongue measures in at 8.5 centimetres (3.3 inches) – one and a half times its total body length.

Answered by Luis Villazon.