- Hard to stay inside 5. Long and fast
- Tongue that bites 6. The smallest
- The longest 7. A nose or a fork?
- The biggest 8. Best for brushing
A. The chameleon possesses an unusual tongue adapted for rapidly striking prey that is within striking distance. This remarkably long tongue can be twice the chameleon’s own body length and extends out faster than the human eye can follow, hitting prey in about 30 thousandths of a second. The tip of the tongue is muscular and cup shaped. Once the tip sticks to a prey insect, the tongue is quickly drawn back into the mouth.
B. If you thought the chameleon had a big tongue, check out the giant anteater’s, which can reach 60 cm in length. The anteater coats its tongue in sticky saliva during feeding and can rapidly flick its tongue from its mouth up to 150 times per minute. After breaking into insect colonies and tree trunks using their long sharp claws, anteaters employ their tongues to collect eggs and adult insects, a few thousand of which they can eat in just minutes.
C. Instead of using their tongues to munch on prey, snakes use them to sniff prey out. Smell is a snake’s means of tracking its victims: its forked tongue is used to collect airborne particles that are then passed onto special organs in the mouth for analysis. It all sounds very scientific. The tongue gives the snake a directional sense of both smell and taste. By constantly keeping the tongue in motion, snakes can detect the presence of other animals.
D. Another beast with a beast of a tongue, the giraffe can extend its 45 cm mouth muscle to clean off bugs from its face or to feed. The specially adapted tongue is extremely tough to cope with tree thorns that are part of the giraffe’s diet. When removed from their natural environment and kept in captivity, sometimes giraffes show abnormal behaviours and start licking nearby objects. Such tongue needs work!
E. After hunting, a cat will groom itself thoroughly to erase all evidence of the recent brutal murder. The rows of hooked, backwards-facing spines on a cat’s tongue known as papillae act like the bristles of a hairbrush to help clean and detangle fur, so that licking means grooming. This probably makes a cat’s tongue far more vital to its well-being than ours are to us. When was the last time you used your tongue for that just-stepped-out-of-the-salon look?
F. The blue whale is big. Phenomenally big: it’s almost the size of a space shuttle orbiter, or if you don’t know how big that is, just go to your local basketball court. The blue whale is longer than it. They’re also mysterious: despite their size, blue whales are so rare that even experts know little about them. In fact, their tongue alone weighs as much as an elephant. About 100 people can fit in a blue whale’s mouth.
G. The arapaima, or pirarucu as it is known in Brazil, is one of the largest freshwater fishes in the world. Its local name derives from the indigenous words for red and fish, which is a reference to the striking red flecks on the scales. In common with other fish belonging to the bony-tongued fish, the arapaima has a tongue with sharp, bony teeth that together with teeth on the roof of its pallet are involved in catching prey.