What's In the News?

By Karey Burek

Below is some information that I came across from the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.  I found it in an ani-mail and thought it was interesting — they mention Florida, which is always a plus.  Enjoy!!

Everyone knows that chameleons are able to change colors to blend in with their surroundings (and even to attract a mate). But did you know that chameleons have very special feet? These lizards live mostly in the trees, which means they are arboreal.  Now, crawling from branch to branch with toes waggling all over the place probably wouldn’t be very efficient. Chameleons have five toes just like you and me, but their toes are fused together. The back feet have three toes on the outside and two on the inside; the front feet are the opposite way around. Why is that? Because the fused toes form something like claws that do a great job of grabbing branches. The best part of all...this crazy adaptation has its own special scientific-type name.  Chameleons have zygodactylous feet (which is probably from a Greek word meaning "yoke footed"). Other animals do too...like woodpeckers, which also need to hang onto trees.

Speaking of lizards, among my favorites are the tiny geckos. If you’ve traveled to Mexico, the Caribbean or even here in Florida, you’ve probably seen geckos on the walls, floors, and ceilings! Well, how the heck do they stay up there? Geckos have millions of tiny hairs (called "setae") on each toe. Scientists believe that the hairs produce millions of weak electrical attractions that literally glue the geckos to whatever surface they are on! The phenomenon that holds sticking gecko feet to things they want to stick to is called van der Waals force.  It’s an intermolecular attraction named after a Dutch physicist. Researchers are trying to use what they’ve learned about gecko feet to create solutions to different problems they have come across!  Amazing animals once again.

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