Monday, May 29, 2023

The Tongue


has this interesting story on how the tongue shaped life on this planet. A sample:

THE DEMANDS OF FEEDING may have prompted the emergence of the tongue, but natural selection then tailored and honed it for myriad other purposes, sometimes creating “ridiculously crazy specialized systems,” Schwenk says. For example, web-toed salamanders (Hydromantes) whip out a sticky tongue to nab insects or other small arthropods, shooting their entire throat skeleton out through their mouth. This feeding mode involved retooling throat muscles, with one set storing elastic energy that could be instantaneously released to shoot out the tongue, and another set reeling the tongue back in.

....TONGUE EVOLUTION helped reptiles and amphibians capture animal prey, but in birds, some of the most outlandish tongue adaptations reflect a taste for plants. Most avian tongues are a stiff sliver of keratin (think fingernails) or bone, with little muscle or other living tissue. They “are just a conveyor belt to move food from front to back,” Schwenk says. But there are exceptions—most notably in hummingbirds and other birds that feed on nectar. “The tongue is probably the most vital component for nectar feeding in birds,” says David Cuban, a graduate student at the University of Washington (UW) who works with behavioral ecophysicist Alejandro Rico-Guevara.