Friday, 25 September 2015

Nectar-Slurping Bat Tongues Move Like Human Bowels

by Charles Q. Choi, Live Science Contributor | September 25, 2015 02:08pm ET

Tongue waggles resembling bowel movements could help some bats drink flower nectar, researchers say.

Many insects rely on flower nectar as their main source of food, and have specialized mouthparts to siphon the sweet liquid. A few vertebrates — including birds such as hummingbirds, and mammals such as the honey possum — also have specialized nectar-feeding mouthparts.

Bats make up the largest group of specialized nectar-feeding mammals. These flying beasts often have tongues that are longer than their bodies. However, while most of these species have hairy tongues, some have nearly hairless tongues covered with grooves that stretch from left to right. Until recently, scientists did not know how these differences influence how the bats slurp up nectar.

To learn more about these bat tongues, scientists used high-speed cameras to watch bats trained to drink nectar from glass tubes containing honey water in the lab. They experimented with Pallas' long-tongued bat (Glossophaga soricina), which has a bristly tongue, and the orange nectar-feeding bat Lonchophylla robusta, which has a grooved tongue.

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