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Think all tongues look the same? Not in the animal kingdom! There are tongues that soak up liquid like mops. Or tongues that can stick out 160 times a minute like a jackhammer.
The most famous tongue in the world belongs to one of the most colorful animals in the world: the chameleon. In relation to their body size, it’s the longest tongue in the world. It’s twice as long as the animal itself (including its tail). Within a fraction of a second, it’s flung towards prey like a rubber band. The insect is stuck and the chameleon just has to “reel it in”. Imagine if humans had tongues like that. The sugar from the next table over at a café - sluuurp! Or the chips straight out of the bag while watching TV - sluuurp!
The longest tongues:
|Chameleon||47.2 inch (120 cm)||23.6 inch (60 cm)|
|Giant Pangolin||27.5 inch (70 cm)||39.3 inch (100 cm)|
|Giraffe||21.2 inch (54 cm)||236 inch (600 cm)|
|Sun Bear||9.84 inch (25 cm)||55.1 inch (140 cm)|
|Tube-Lipped Nectar Bat||3.3 inch (8.5 cm)||1.9 inch (5 cm)|
|Lungless Salamander||1.9 inch (5 cm)||2.3 inch (6 cm)|
As a comparison: the longest human tongue is 3.7 inch (9.5 cm) long.
If your eyes sting or itch, you stretch your hand out and rub them with your fingers. Not so great if you happen to be a giraffe with hooves instead of fingers. But it’s not too bad, just stick your tongue out. It’s 21.2 inch (54 cm) long and can easily reach a stressed eye. The giraffe’s dark blue to black tongue is so hard-wearing that not even the prickliest acacia leaves a wound when the giraffe wraps its tongue around the leaves.
The mammal with the longest, and funniest, tongue is the bat anoura fistulata. They grow to just 1.9 inch (5 cm) long but their tongues grow to 3.3 inch (8.5 cm). These bats slurp sweet nectar out of deep flowers as a tasty snack. And you couldn’t do that without a tongue! The nectar has to reach the mouth somehow, so the bat has small, fine hairs at the tip of its tongue. They soak up the nectar like a mop. Bon appetit!