Research shows that a chameleon's secret weapon is its ability to "pre-load" large amounts of energy into the tongue's elastic tissue, and this stored energy augments the muscle power used to fling the tongue. And while all chameleons have the same catapult-like apparatus for launching the tongue, smaller chameleons have ones that are larger proportional to their size.
The researchers concluded that it's an evolutionary trait that can be explained by a smaller animal's need to "consume more energy per body weight" in order to survive. Just check out the Trioceros hoehnelii - one of the chameleon species used in the study - below.
With a peak acceleration 264 times greater than the force of gravity, the rosette-nosed chameleon's tongue has the "highest acceleration and power output produced per kilogram of muscle mass by any reptile, bird, or mammal" - second only to a salamander, which has the most powerful tongue of all vertebrates, according to the researchers.