Subdigital setae of chameleon feet: Friction-enhancing microstructures for a wide range of substrate roughness
Hairy adhesive systems of microscopic setae with triangular flattened tips have evolved convergently in spiders, insects and arboreal lizards. The ventral sides of the feet and tails in chameleons are also covered with setae. However, chameleon setae feature strongly elongated narrow spatulae or fibrous tips. The friction enhancing function of these microstructures has so far only been demonstrated in contact with glass spheres. In the present study, the frictional properties of subdigital setae of Chamaeleo calyptratus were measured under normal forces in the physical range on plane substrates having different roughness. We showed that chameleon setae maximize friction on a wide range of substrate roughness. The highest friction was measured on asperities of 1 μm. However, our observations of the climbing ability of Ch. calyptratus on rods of different diameters revealed that also claws and grasping feet are additionally responsible for the force generation on various substrates during locomotion.