Choose another animal:
Squid | Bat | Fly | Platypus | Grasshopper | Rhino

  1. Air and Scent Inlets
  2. Brain
  3. Extendable Tongue
  4. Eyes
  5. Flat Video Screens
  6. Nerve Bundle
  7. Protective Spikes
  8. Tail
  9. Toes

A chameleon is a reptile with two noteworthy skills. First, it can change its skin color and pattern to match its surroundings - mottled brown on a tree trunk, or bright green on a leafy twig. Second, it catches insects in a unique way. After walking very slowly toward an insect that it has located using its large separately movable eyes, the chameleon shoots out an immensely long, sticky-tipped tongue to trap its prey. Based on the design of a real rainforest chameleon, this robot can perform both of the reptile's party tricks.

Although the chameleon is the same as other reptiles in that it is cold-blooded and it lays eggs, it is also part of a special group of reptiles called lizards.

More About the Chameleon:

Air and Scent Inlets


These are the chameleon's nostrils, or nose.



Where the robot chameleon's minicomputer is, is a real chameleon's brain.

Extendable Tongue


The chameleon's tongue is built out of a muscular tube wrapped around a long, thin, tapering bone that lies on the floor of the animal's mouth. When the tongue musceles are triggered to fire, they squeeze tightly on the bone. This makes the whole tongue shoot out like an ora\ nge seed squeezed between your fingers. In the robot, a spring-loaded mechanism triggers the food-capturing machinery, whichis a long spring that uncoils and shoots forward. Good aim is achieved because the spring is coiled around a forward-pointing spike. The spring has a sticky end that allows the chameleon to capture a robot fly.

 Show me the tongue firing.



Also known as the Visual Receptors. The robot's two pivoting visual sensors pick up an excellent picture of the world around it. Control fibers from the sensors link back to the minicomputer. This, via other fibers, controls the images on banks of tiny video screens that cover the robot's surface.

 Show me the eyes moving.

Flat Video Screen


The screens show camouflage patterns (cells called chromatophores that lie beneath the scales). With multiscreen picture software, the computer makes the surface look like the surroundings. In the real animal, the eyes, brain, and the nerves that run to color cells in the skin do the same thing.

Nerve Bundle


This bundle is made up of electrical control fibers on the robot chameleon.

Protective Spikes


The spikes act as the protective backbone and spine of a real chameleon.



The robot's tail is made up of coiled flexible tubing. This type of tail is known as prehensile, or a gripping tail.



The chameleon has five toes on each foot; the back feet have three toes outside and two inside. The front feet are the opposite way around. This provides the chameleon with the same number of toes on each side of the twig and allows for a firm and balanced grip.

 Show me the toes gripping.

Chameleon Facts:

Country: India, Africa, and Madagascar
Habitat: savanna vegetation
Length: ranges from about 1 to 24 in. long (2 to 60 cm.)
Weight: up to 1 lb. (0.45 kg)
Closest relative: iguana

 Choose another animal: Squid | Bat | Fly | Platypus | Grasshopper | Rhino

Special thanks to B.J. Heinley and Brian Buschmann.