The natural world is filled with all sorts of flamboyantly bizarre creatures, but some animals are better at hiding their secret weirdness than others. Hiding inside some of their mouths are outrageous tongues, ones so crazy that it would probably change some peoples perspectives about the animal if they were to find out exactly what they do with said tongues. Some of the strangest tongues in nature include ones that are serrated, tongues that have developed unique abilities, and even some that are longer than the animal itself.
These odd animal tongues have evolved to perform all sorts of specific tasks, but that doesn’t make them any less unsettling. Even relatively harmless animals can quickly become terrifying as soon as they open their mouths. Tongues can sometimes seem gross and slimy, but they are essential organs that can make all the difference when it comes to an animals chances of survival. These are some of the craziest, most extreme, and most unique tongues in the animal kingdom.
Chameleons are some of the strangest animals in existence. They have color-changing skin, eyes that can look in almost any direction, and a ridiculously long tongue that is almost twice the length of its body. If human tongues were proportionally long, we’d all be stuck with a 10 to 12 foot long tongue in our mouths.
Chameleons use their tongues to hunt for prey, shooting them out of their mouths at high speeds. A big part of their predatory success comes from their ultra-sticky saliva, which is nearly 400 times as viscous as our own and can hold onto something about a third as heavy as the chameleon itself. Scientists are studying this saliva at a molecular level to try to understand the inner workings of this fascinating adaption.
There are a couple things that make flamingo tongues way weirder than average. First are the spiny bristles that coat their tongues, an adaptation that allows them to filter their food much like baleen whales do. On top of these unusual spines, scientists have discovered erectile tissue. These are a crucial part in how flamingo tongues work. When feeding, this tissue will fill with blood and become rigid. Since flamingos feed by dipping their heads upside down in water, researchers hypothesize this swollen tissue assists in the stabilization of their heads.
The tongues of sun bears can grow up to 10 inches long, a record when it comes to bears. These hefty tongues have evolved to allow the sun bear to reach honey and insects that are hiding deep inside tree trunks and other crevices. Despite their large tongues, they are the smallest bear species and are adept climbers. Unfortunately, sun bears are known for destroying crops in Southeast Asia, and that has led to many bears being killed. Today the sun bears are a vulnerable species, and they could become endangered if these practices continue.
First discovered in 2005, the tube-lipped nectar bat is native to South America and has the unusual distinction of holding the record for the longest tongue of any mammal proportional to its size. This small bat is no bigger than a mouse, but it’s tongue can measure up to 3.4 inches long and is about 1.5 times longer than the entire bat itself. The crazy long tongue allows these bats to gorge themselves on the nectar of tropical flowers, and they are the only animal able to pollinate an elongated bell-shaped flower.