7 Animals with Really Wild Tongues

7 Animals with Really Wild Tongues

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[INTRO ♪] Your tongue does a lot for you—it helps
you swallow, taste your food, it does all of these extremely intricate things that my toungue is doing right now so that you can understand all the words—just, like, what does it do—so amazing! Blubliblibl-lah! Maybe your tongue can perform cool tricks, like you can roll your tongue, or do that clover thing that people can do that’s … ueahhh … ung … Am I doing it? But when it comes to lingual feats, our species—while amazing—has nothing on the animals on this list. They can do amazing things with their tongues, like catapult them out of their mouths, or
use them to lure unsuspecting prey. These seven animals have some of the world’s
longest, stretchiest, stickiest, trickiest, and just plain old weirdest tongues. If you’ve ever seen a chameleon grab a bug, you already know that their sticky tongues are
quite impressive. They can be more than twice as long as the
animal’s body when fully stretched— proportionally, the longest of any vertebrate. And they can be launched with surprising speed
and accuracy to capture prey. In fact, when a 2004 study used high-speed
video and X-ray film to capture the tongues of two species in action, they found they rocketed out of their mouths
at more than 20 kilometers per hour. And a similar study in 2016 clocked the acceleration
of one chameleon’s tongue at more than 2,590 meters per second squared— that’s over two hundred times the rate at
which the fastest sports car can go from 0-100. Such speed takes a lot of power—more than
ordinary muscles can provide. When scientists carefully dissected chameleon
specimens in search of an explanation, they found a helix-structured sheath of elastic
collagen tissue between the tongue’s anchoring bone and
the accelerator muscle: a biological catapult. Energy is stored in the collagen tissue as
the muscles contract, and then this unique structure telescopes
outward kind of like a spring when triggered. And if you want to watch this happen in, like, super slow motion, see what’s going on? It’s pretty amazing—Smarter Every Day did a great video we will link in the description. So yeah, in addition to rapid color-changing
and independently moving eyes, you can add spring-loaded tongues to the list
of weird chameleon adaptations. Evolution might have gone a bit overboard with
these guys. The South American tube-lipped nectar bat
has an elongated lower lip that rolls up into a tube, hence the name. But its lip isn’t what sets it apart from
its closest relatives. That would be—you guessed it!—its tongue, which would make even Gene Simmons jealous. These bats’ tongues can be one and a half
times the length of their bodies, or about 6 to 8 centimeters long—they’re
not huge bats. Proportionally, that’s the longest tongue
of any mammal, and second only to chameleons among vertebrates. It’s so long that, instead of being anchored
at the back of the mouth like in most mammals, it continues back through
the neck all the way down into to the rib cage. The bat needs that length because of its special
relationship with its food. As their name implies, these bats feed
on nectar, which is hiding at the base of the super elongated
flowers. Their extra long tongues allow them to reach
so deeply that they can feed from a plant none of their
relatives can, which has flowers that are eight or nine centimeters
long. And as far as scientists can tell, they’re
the only pollinator for that plant’s flowers. While lots of plants have similarly tight
relationships with insects, this is the only known example of a plant
relying so intimately upon a bat. And that makes the tube-lipped nectar bat’s
incredibly long tongue vital to both species. Woodpeckers are so named for their somewhat
annoying habit of banging on trees with their their chisel-like
bills. But that beak is only one of their tools they have for
extracting the bugs they eat— the second is their super long, narrow tongue. In fact, their tongues make them somewhat
harder to study than other species, as they can get horribly tangled in the fine
nets ornithologists use to capture birds. Most woodpeckers have backwards-facing barbs
near the tips of their tongues, which let them use them like a spear or a
rake to drag insects out of holes in the tree bark. And they’re coated in sticky saliva, which
also helps with the bug-slurping. But what really makes these tongues interesting is where the birds put them when they’re
not in use. A woodpecker’s tongue can be several times
longer than its bill, so when it’s retracted, it coils around
the skull, sometimes so far that part of the structure
supporting it pokes into the bird’s nostril. That structure is called the hyoid— the bone that an animal’s tongue muscles
are typically attached to. In woodpeckers, the ends of this horseshoe-shaped
bone wrap back around the skull and sometimes even
connect. The hyoid both holds the tongue in place and
acts as a shock absorber for the skull, helping protect it during all that drumming
action. A tongue bone that doubles as a skull harness
is definitely weird enough to make this list. You may have heard of pangolins for the saddest
of reasons: some estimate they account for 20% of the
world’s illegal wildlife trade. That’s because, instead of hair, they’re
covered in keratin scales, which are believed to have all sorts of mystical
powers. There are eight pangolin species distributed
across Asia and Africa, some of which have declined as much as 80%
in the last decade thanks mostly to poaching. And it’s a shame they’re so well known
for their scaly armor when their tongues are so weird. Extended to full length, pangolin tongues
are longer than their bodies. They’re so long that they’re actually
anchored at the base of the rib cage instead of the throat, kind of like those
little bats we talked about. And inside is a solid rod of cartilage which
contains an artery that supplies blood to tissue in the tongue
to stiffen it. If that sounds kind of like the erectile tissue
in a penis? Yeah, it’s—it’s basically the same idea. Keeping the tongue rigid helps with thrusting
it into ant and termite colonies to extract the bugs the animal feeds on. The pangolin’s other common name is “scaly
anteater.” And that stiff tongue is also coated in sticky
saliva, so when the pangolin retracts it out of the
insect colony, it is covered in yummy treats. The insects are then scraped off at the entrance
to the animal’s throat with a specialized hyoid bone, as pangolins
don’t have any teeth. Also, their babies are called pangopups. That’s not really relevant to tongues, or really anything. It’s just something you need to know. The enormous, prehistoric-looking alligator
snapping turtle is found in rivers and lakes in the southeastern
U.S. But even though they’re the largest freshwater
turtle in North America, they can be hard to spot, because they spend
most of their lives underwater. They’ll remain submerged for almost an hour
at a time, much of which they spend patiently waiting
for their food to come to them. Which it does, because the turtles use worm-shaped
protrusions from their tongues as bait. The technical term for this technique is lingual
luring, and alligator snappers are the only turtles
that have bait built into their mouths. A hungry turtle will sit motionless on the
river bottom, open wide, and wiggle their weird tongue lure
temptingly. This is accomplished through the work of several
muscles attached to the animal’s hyoid apparatus— a set of about a dozen articulating skeletal
pieces. The lure itself, or vermiform appendage— which literally just means worm-shaped appendage— is branched, creating the appearance of a
complete wiggling worm. And it can fill with blood to become slightly
larger, firmer and pinker, presumably to become more worm-y. The shape, color, and movement draws curious
fish and frogs close, right into the danger zone. Since the appendage also contains a lot of
sensory nerves, as soon as the turtle feels something touch
it, reflex takes over, and… snap. So if you’re swimming in a lake in the southeast and you spot something, like, weird and mysterious wiggling away below you there… Don’t! No! The finger-removing abilities of snapping turtles?
Not a myth! Now, compared to giraffes’ other long traits, their 40 to 70 cm tongues actually seem kind of short. But they’re not just two thirds of a meter long— they’re also prehensile, meaning they’re
capable of wrapping around and grasping stuff, and they’re
a deep shade of bluish-purple. Even with their long necks, giraffes can still
struggle to reach the tender leaves at the very tops
of acacia trees— hence that sizeable tongue. And its dexterity helps sort out the tasty
bits from spiny twigs. In fact, they’re so used to manipulating
food with their tongues that when zoos make their meals too easy to get at, the animals get kind of neurotic and start
licking other stuff. This random licking behavior is actually reduced if
their food is prepared in a way that gives their tongues, like, an appropriate workout. A giraffe’s tongue also has a very tough,
sandpapery surface and thick, antiseptic saliva, which help prevent
and heal cuts and abrasions that it gets from rooting around for leaves among
gnarly acacia thorns. That saliva is also thought to keep any thorns
that do get swallowed from harming the digestive tract— pokey bits get coated so thickly in the stuff
that they just pass through. As for the dark purple-blue color—
no one is 100% sure, but most experts think that it helps prevent sunburn, since they spend so much time with
their tongues sticking out. You don’t want to get a tongue sunburn! And these antiseptic, prehensile tongues have
another handy use for giraffes: they help them keep their nostrils and ears
squeaky clean! Blue whales are the largest animals on the
planet, so it’s not surprising that their tongues
are correspondingly huge. Just the tongue of a blue whale can weigh
as much as an elephant. But it’s not just big—it’s also super
stretchy, which helps when you want to use it to move
around tens of thousands of liters of water. To get a mouthful of tiny krill, blue whales
open up wide and lunge through dense schools at high speeds. The resulting force of all that water rushing
into the whale’s mouth flips its tongue inside out and expands the
pleated bottom of its mouth. Together they form a giant pouch, full of
doomed critters. Then, the whale closes its mouth. The tongue helps squeeze all that water out, filtering it through the baleen plates and
leaving behind a mouthful of food—as much as half a million
calories’ worth. In other animals, stretching out all that
flesh and then contracting it again would wreak havoc on the nerves in the mouth
and tongue. But the tongue nerves of blue whales and their
relatives have a special adaptation to handle this—they’re
super stretchy, like bungee cords. The nerve fibers can extend to twice their
regular length, and then snap back, none the worse for wear. Who knew so much went into scooping up mouthfuls
of teeny tiny krill! It’s hard to imagine having a sticky, spring-loaded
tongue that can shoot out of your mouth and snag a
roll from the next table over, or a tongue that doubles as a fishing lure,
no rod and reel required. But for these animals, outlandish tongues
are the norm. And maybe them looking at us, they’re like, “What are they doing with all that ta—noise makin’? Weirdos!” Thanks to natural selection, maybe we’ve all learned some extreme lingual tricks! Thank you for watching this episode of SciShow, which was great! It was a rollercoaster, you guys. And if you’re fascinated by bizarre mouthparts, you might wanna check out our episode on creatures with super weird teeth. [OUTRO ♪]

100 thoughts on “7 Animals with Really Wild Tongues

  • Amish Cowboy Post author

    Imagine licking your ear or seeing some toes from across the room and SLURP! Devoured.

  • Pr0v3n Post author

    May very well be one of the best SciShow episodes ever! Great graphics that are relevant, Hank is amazing at presenting, and the jokes he squeezes in are so natural yet so funny and don't detract from the education. Great work to all of the staff involved! You guys are easily the most talented group of educators and creators in educational media! You're all wonderful! Keep up the amazing work!

  • Dylan T Post author

    pangopups was my bands name.

  • warhawkjah Post author

    Pangolins get a tongue boner.

  • Elyneo17 Post author

    Hank is just sooo happy when he can talk about giraffes on yt again 😉
    it is nice to see 😀

  • Joshua Longman Post author

    When and how did the organisms evolve to have brain?

  • Kew Akl Post author

    @05:49, yummy treats. Like dirt?

  • Marco Pohl Post author

    evolution went overboard with chameleons, yet their still low tier #TierZooForLive

  • INTPeanut Post author

    Awww, the Blue Whale one reminded me of the good old days of 'Truth Loader', where Adam Sich did a frequent 'bit' on Blue Whales.
    That was such a great little team. I miss them dearly 🙁

  • Cate Brooks Post author

    I won't ever get how anyone would not see these things as proof of our Creator… at the very least, ID…. so cool….

  • Physics Only Post author

    I want a tongue that long for self pleasure

  • steph g Post author

    1:52 im sorry,but THAT does NOT look like a TONGUE 🙂 nice job on info,thanks again guys

  • István Sipos Post author

    hey, Sci Show! wanna harvest the most hilarious comments within like 0.6 seconds?
    then make a 2 topic video, combining space and biology: topic 1 is tongues, topic 2 is Uranus

  • Schmidt McGready Post author

    1:43, if it were a biological trebuchet, it would be able to launch a 90 kg projectile 300 meters.

  • Nagarath16 Post author

    … Wait what… Some people can't roll they tongue?

  • Jacob Thomas Post author

    I don't understand the down votes. Do people hate knowledge that badly?

  • El Gringo Post author

    I feel like hank could spit filthy bars with his tongue, the plosives he comes up with and phenomenal

  • Euqirnesa Post author

    t h r u s t i n g ( ° ͜ʖ °)

  • Oyamada13 Post author

    Just to get it out of my system…

    That's what she said.

  • Aspect Science Post author

    Speaking of tongues – how did the hipster burn his tongue?…

    …by drinking their coffee before it was cool!

    (disclaimer, no hate intended for coffee drinkers and/or hipsters – you do you!)

  • b33lze6u6 Post author

    "giraffes get bored in captivity and start licking random stuff

  • Lutfa Lasker Post author

    Q: What do you call a lesbian with a big tongue?

    A: Well hung.

  • Karina Woldon Post author

    You forgot to include how weird the rainbow lorikeet's tongue is! 🙁

  • Alastair Corsair Post author

    WTF is with the Asian world and this constant slaughter of mundane animals for BS magic cock magic, that what 90% of that 'herbal whatever ' is used for, lets grind some bones of baby pandas, mix it with eyes of the eagle
    , bald of course, and the blood of your first born and blood of a tiger, white if able, then drink it through the blowhole of a fresh slaughter of dolphin! Oh and kick some dog 4 should be good off a bridge the following winter, cuter the better.

  • LoadStar81 Post author

    While chameleon tongues do provide a really impressive tether grab, I have to agree with TierZoo:

    Lack of solid core stats, along with the fact they only use their color change for emotes, makes them unviable in a competitive meta.

  • Tomsci sci Post author

    It deserves a new lang*tonguage*

  • Sansirow Post author

    Answering the title…
    Ur mom

  • Vipsania Post author

    I was eating chips while watching this and started pulling them into my mouth using my tongue instead of placing them with my hand… I’m very suggestible

  • Nettles' Cats Post author

    Cow tongues 'grip' grass and the cow moves their head to rip the grass, and often the roots, out of the ground…since they don't have top teeth. That's one reason I only want horses in my fields. They have top and bottom teeth and pinch the grass in two before pulling, which cuts it neatly without uprooting the whole thing.

  • A Stevens Post author

    Pangolin = red rocket face

  • Staringathesun Post author

    Editing game on point.

  • MrImalandshark Post author

    ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

    Hastily scribbles in holiday planner

  • Zacharia Badgers Post author

    ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

  • Valthjof Post author

    Why can't you breathe with a really long snorkel but can scuba dive at great depths?

  • Topher S Post author

    Nectar bats: never home alone on a Saturday night.

  • Thy Nightmares Post author

    Who the heck calls slippery mouth snakes "tongues"?

  • PistazienJoe Post author

    Pangopups! I actually really needed to know this even though I didnt know that I needed to know it

  • Gaming.Gecko Post author

    You guys forgot blue tongue skinks, their tongue is blue and is used for self defence

  • Angeles Carr Post author

    what that tongue do

  • elfarlaur Post author

    Ask my girlfriend and she'll tell you that I've learned some extreme lingual tricks

  • rainynight02 Post author

    Has an alligator snapping turtle ever bitten off it's own tongue, I wonder.

  • eat the rich Post author

    i am uncomfortable knowing pangolins having tongue boners

  • Nicca Smith Post author

    I did need to know that baby pangolins were called pangopups that is important.

  • madcat789 Post author

    My girlfriend's got a really weird tongue I'll tell you what.

  • sent4dc Post author

    1:52 … this … doesn't look like a tongue 🙂

  • electronicsNmore Post author

    I knew a girl years ago that I'd put up to any of the animals on your list. LOL

  • Nobellium Uranium Post author

    omg the beggining

  • Nathan Post author


  • lilbasenji1 Post author

    Can I make a request? Can you make a video on black wolf gene that originated in dogs, autism, or science discoveries named after or share a name with video games.

  • Mostly Harmless Post author

    tongues similar to penises… it doesn't take a cunning linguist to make a joke about this

  • Mike Post author

    My dog uses his tongue as toilet paper. And mine has a titanium rod in it.

  • Anna Heebsh Post author

    I want patreon so i can see this blooper reel

  • Avilude Post author

    Funny, I was thinking about the woodpecker's tongue seconds before they mentioned it.

  • RoseOfTheNight4444 Post author

    Not that it's very impressive or unique but cats have little barbs on their tongue specifically to remove loose or matted fur, insects, and other foreign objects. Being licked by a feline is so weird!

  • RoseOfTheNight4444 Post author

    I know Xenomorphs don't exist but they have the weirdest tongues ever. So do the animals that inspired that trait.

  • help me Post author

    Tongue burn

  • Frank Nitti Post author

    Just had to say thrust, I get it.

  • Niño Camilo Post author

    Is he single? I want him. Hahahaha I want his tongue 👅 inside my flower. Hahahahah sorry for this.

  • Andrea House Post author

    Yay for the Smarter Every Day shout-out! That's a great video by Destin.

  • Cule Chick Post author

    Has anyone ever told you that you talk really fast when you're excited?

  • whitelion2020 Post author

    I'm so excited that you cited SmarterEveryDay!

  • LMacNeill Post author

    These creatures are such cunning linguists. 😉 (Hey, c'mon — somebody had to say it!)

  • Nerds Post author

    Its funny, my nickname back in college was the animal with the wild tongue

  • InBassWeTrust Post author

    ( ° ͜ʖ °)

  • edi Post author

    How do people with long tongues store their tongues? I've seen one that seemed to have a tongue 2x as long as the jaw length.

  • Fandom Nerd Post author

    Can you do a video on why rain water makes people itch? I've had this problem for as long as I can remember and I just don't know why

  • Ben Tarr Post author

    Woodpeckers aren't annoying, like all animals, they're amazing, beautiful creatures.

    That pecking sound is great.

  • Kaela Olsen Post author

    THANK YOU SCISHOW!!! BUT WILL YOU PLEASE DO A VIDEO ON GLIOMAS?!?!?!? Or at least give me a yes or no???????!

  • m mac Post author

    did you have to use the word thrusting

  • typacsk Post author

    There was just no way to keep that pangolin entry from sounding dirty, was there?

  • Matthew Harris-Levesque Post author

    8:28 – A new solution for IBS! Let's harness that Giraffe Spit!

  • RMAGGR Post author

    I thoroughly enjoy a lingual workout.

  • yamrj Post author

    who is muscle hank?

  • rightsdeup crocodile Post author

    So I can do this weird thing where I close my eyes and look up really hard and my upper eyelids will disappear and I think it tucks itself into my eye socket. I don’t know anyone else who can do this, so how can I?

  • Justin Post author

    Why did I picture Hank wiggling his tongue at the bottom of the river when explaining the snapping turtle?

  • RogueK Post author

    Its illegal that you didn't mention Rainbow Lorrikeets. They've got little alien tongues used for eating nectar and its freaky to look at lol. Example A: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bk2J_2UAG89/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

  • GabbyGabby Snivy Post author

    I once fed a giraffe at a zoo and it literally wrapped its tongue around the carrot

  • Alex Rose Post author

    The little voice crack in your voice about the Pangopups made it so much better. Thank you. <3

  • R E D Я U M Post author

    Clearly none has met my friend

  • SERN Post author


  • roddy axolotl Post author

    imagine sentient giraffes for a second
    nevermind dont imagine that that's just horrible considering their only prehensile appendage is in this video

  • Zylar Squart Post author

    Best presenter!

  • Jennifer Havard Post author

    How about a video on the evolutionary history of fruit?

  • Korrie Rose Post author

    Honestly thank you for telling me that Pangolin babies are called pangopups, this is very important information.

  • T Bone Post author

    No anteater? I guess that pangolins count.

  • MtnTow Post author

    Holy crap the kiss face threw me for a moment. Lmao

  • Obama-Bin-Thanos Post author

    they must give really nice fellatio

  • Spencer Trotter Post author

    You should have more pictures and clips of the animals.

  • Jorge M Post author

    Animals were the first engineers.. Evolving stuff like this

  • Jay Pastrana Post author

    Those idiots believing a pangolin's keratin rich "scales" can cure them of their ails should drink a bottle of Tresemme, it is much cheaper and readily available and much concentrated. If it kills them, then atleast they are cured of their maladies period.

  • The FireBolt Post author

    They could have done the airabima which has a bone in its tongue

  • RyanWake bradtelle Post author

    Half a million calories that's like 10 humans

  • Alexandri Post author

    I'm pretty interested to develope that linual luring skill.

  • Michael Elbert Post author

    This show is getting my girlfriend so hot

  • Teruma Post author

    For pelple who are confused about "vertebrate with the longest tongue" refering to the chameleon and the bat, he refers relative to the body, and not by actual distance

  • Heather Villalta Post author

    I knew blue whales were big. But their tongues weigh as much as an elephant???? I don’t think I realize how big they really are.

  • Randomly Rachelanne Post author

    Hank…. I truly DID need to know about pangopups. 😍

  • Jay Post author

    Wow man that ant eater got that strange. It’s pretty sick that they use it like a sticky spoon but I don’t think it is as gnarly as that one time Kyle threw a kegger banger while his parents were at a resort for prom in 11th grade. It was our first time drinking and I totally made it to 2nd base with a girl my bro Shane said was hot so I let him sniff my finger. That ant eater could totally sniff if he wanted to

  • doggos and cattos Post author

    I can do the clover tongue ☘️👅

  • Lucky Strike Post author

    We got alligator snapping turtles in the Northeast US as well. At least in ponds and rivers around the BOSTON area that I’ve seen and caught. Can’t vouch for outside eastern Massachusetts but I’d bet they can be found around the rest of New England as well

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