By Jim Brace-Thompson
Chameleons, like frogs, have tongues that can whip out to snap up a tasty meal. It turns out that this manner of predatory feeding extends back at least to the mid-Cretaceous, thanks to finds suggesting similar “ballistic feeders.”
Ballistic what? I’m talking about Albanerpetontids—or tiny fossilized amphibians discovered in full three-dimensional glory in amber that dates back some 100 to 113 million years. The specific amber in question hails from Myanmar. The specific critter in question is Yaksha perettii. Some have described such critters as “salamander-like” and by others as “lizard-like.”
A team of paleontologists led by Juan D. Daza (Sam Houston State University, Texas) has analyzed fossil specimens that show a highly specialized feeding arrangement “very similar to the long, rapidly projecting tongue of chameleons.”
Regardless of the moniker, these fossils provide a unique perspective on its evolution.