What does a tiger’s tongue look like?
Mammals have tongues. A tongue is a muscle. The left and right sides of the tongue are separated by a vertical section of fibrous tissue, called a lingual septum. A tongue has a tip and a blade (the part just behind the tip).
A tongue is used for chewing, tasting, licking, swallowing, washing, and making sounds. A tongue’s upper surface is covered with taste buds. The tongue has nerves and blood vessels, and is kept moist with saliva. It can be pink, reddish, or dark-coloured (like a giraffe’s tongue).
A human’s tongue is about 10 centimetres (4 inches) long. The Tiger (Panthera tigris) has a tongue that is about 18-23 centimetres (7-9 inches) long.
A tiger’s tongue has fleshy bristles on the upper surface, giving it a rough texture. The bristles, called papillae, are small, sharp, and face backwards (towards the throat). When it washes itself with its tongue, the bristles act like a comb, so it combs its fur at the same time.
The bristles on the tiger’s tongue can also strip skin, fur, feathers, and meat off its prey.
A tiger has antiseptic saliva. When it licks its fur and skin with its tongue, it disinfects them.
Unlike many other animals, the tiger does not drink water by lapping it up on the top of their tongue, due to its tongue bristles. Instead, it cups the back of its tongue to flick water droplets into the air, which it closes its mouth over.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
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