Terrific Tongues

Until recently I’ve never given much thought to tongues. Then I came across an article that talked about how humans have a tongue print, very much like a fingerprint. And like fingerprints, all tongue prints are unique to the individual. Okay, that’s interesting. So yes, I did a little research which led me to animal tongues. I am hooked.

Photo Credit – CC Bilby

Take a giraffe, for example. Their tongues are so long (21 inches!) that they can even clean out their own ears. Yes, gross. I suppose if you are a giraffe, though, it’s quite handy. Giant anteaters also have exceptionally long tongues (up to two feet!). It’s long and thin like a strand of spaghetti, and covered with sticky saliva that helps them slurp up insects. That tongue is surprisingly fast too; an anteater can flick its tongue in and out of its mouth up to 150 times a minute! Frogs are also known for their super-fast tongues. More than 4,000 species of frogs have tongues so lightning quick they can nab their prey faster than the blink of a human eye. Alligator snapping turtles use their tongue to catch prey in an entirely different way. They lie in wait at the bottom of a swamp, river, or lake with their tongue hanging out. They wriggle the tongue slightly, which mimics a worm, and the unsuspecting prey is suddenly the dinner instead of the diner! Penguins have tongues that are bristly, like a toothbrush. The bristles are made of keratin and help penguins grab wriggling fish and krill.

Then there are butterflies that don’t have tongues at all, just a long proboscis. They do have a few taste buds there and on their antennae, but butterflies mostly taste using their feet! Flies, too. For the record, all insects are tongue-less.

For those creatures that do have tongues, they come in all kinds shapes, sizes, colors, textures, and abilities. Tongues are pretty terrific!