Updated – 5th April, 2021
Humans use their tongue for licking, eating, tasting, swallowing, as well as speaking. However, this muscular organ has a very different significance when it comes to animals.
You can see all types of weird, small, and long tongues in the animal kingdom. Some use it to catch their prey, while the others might use it to punch their opponents.
What animal has the longest tongue relative to its size?
Tube-lipped Nectar Bat
The tube-lipped nectar bat has a tongue that is 1.5 times larger than its body, making them the animal with the longest tongue relative to its body size. They have a very small body, measuring just 2.2 inches, but their tongues grow as long as 3.3 inches.
The tube-lipped nectar bat was recently discovered in 2005, in a small country in South America. Their tongue goes down to their chest, and only comes out when they find a bell-shaped flower.
The tube-lipped nectar bat has a prickly tongue, with hair-like bristles. With the help of these extended bristles, the bat is able to extract more nectar from the flowers.
The scientists studied the tube-lipped nectar bat’s tongue by filling a clear glass tube with sugar water and watching the bat lick all of that up.
Chameleons give a pretty good competition to the tube-lipped nectar bat. In fact, if we exclude their tails, a chameleons tongue is almost twice the size of their body.
However, along with the tail, which is usually included while measuring the body size, a chameleon’s tongue is 1.4 times the size of its body.
A chameleon’s tongue usually grows up to 24 inches long, and its body size is approximately 17 inches long.
They not only have a very long tongue, but their tongues are also one of the fastest moving ones in the animal kingdom. Chameleons have a special elastic tissue in their tongue, which they keep folded in the back of their mouth.
Whenever a chameleon sees its prey, it releases the tongue muscles which allows its tongue to spring forward with a lot of force and catch its prey.
Pangolins have a long, sticky tongue, which accounts for three-fourth of their body length. These mammals can grow up to 21 inches, with a tongue as long as 14 inches.
Pangolins tongue is even longer than its torso. Their tongue is not attached to their mouth, but goes deep down to the last pair of ribs, and is attached near the pelvis.
Their tongues are coated with sticky saliva that catches the bugs and insects in the soil. They do not have teeth and cannot chew their prey.
So pangolins depend upon their long, sticky tongues to slurp out the insects from soil. They use their claws to dig up the termite and use their flickering tongues to pick up the prey.
Wryneck has a long, sticky tongue, which accounts for half of their body length. These birds can grow up to 7 inches long and have a tongue that stretches as long as 3.5 inches.
Wrynecks have cylindrical tongues with very tiny scales, which are arranged in the opposite direction, throughout the length of their tongue.
These deep grooves or fissures in the tongue, help them collect their prey from soil and under the bark of a tree.
Wryneck’s favourite food is ants, and they use their long, sticky tongue to capture them from the soil. They bury their large heads into the soil in search of ants and their larvae.
Echidnas have a really long and strong tongue, which accounts for two-fifth of their body length. These mammals can grow up to 17 inches and have a tongue that stretches up to 7 inches long.
Echidnas have long, sticky tongues which work up very quickly to slurp up their prey. Their sticky tongues help feed them on ants, termites, worms, and beetle larvae.
They do not have any teeth, and use their strong claws to break open logs, and search for termites and larvae.
Echidnas tongue also helps them break down their food. With the absence of teeth, they grind their food between their tongue and the bottom of their mouth.
Green woodpeckers have long, slender tongues, which account for one-third of their body length. These small birds can grow up to 12 inches and have a tongue that stretches as long as 4 inches.
The woodpecker’s tongue is so long, that it has to coil behind its skull, over its eyes, and into its right nostril, so that it can all fit inside the bird’s tiny head.
Their long tongue and muscles help insulate their brain, from the repeated pecks, protecting the woodpecker from serious brain damages.
Woodpeckers depend upon ants for their food. They usually stick their head inside the soil and pull out their long tongue to search for ants and insects.
Green woodpeckers usually have a flattened tip on their tongue, allowing better contact with their prey.
Common frogs have long, slender, and sticky tongues, which accounts for one-third of their body length. They can grow up to 5 inches, with a tongue that can stretch as long as 1.2 inches.
Their tongue is attached to the front of the frog’s mouth, allowing them to launch their entire tongue out within milliseconds. A frog can catch their prey in 0.07 seconds, which is 5 times faster than the blink of a human eye.
A frogs tongue is extremely elastic, transparent, and sticky with tiny microstructures on its tongue. Their tongues are strong enough to lift 1.4 times their own body weight.
They usually depend on small insects and termites as their food. Whenever they see their prey, they launch their sticky tongue out to capture the insect. The tongue wraps around the insect, to increase the contact area.
The frog then pulls its tongue back into its mouth, and the thick saliva helps maintain a tight grip on the insect. Once their tongue is back into their mouth, the frog uses its eyeballs to push their prey down the throat.
The giant anteater has the longest tongue in the animal kingdom. It accounts for one-third of its body length. It can grow up to 86 inches, with a tongue that stretches as long as 26 inches.
Giant anteaters have a sticky tongue, helping them to snag the insects in the soil, and under the bark of a tree. They swallow their prey as a whole and therefore have a long, narrow skull, thin jaws, and no teeth.
They use their strong front claws to tear the bark from tree logs and break open termite mounds. They then use their sticky tongues to wrap up the insects and ants.
Giant anteaters use can eat about 35,000 ants in one go, with the help of their long and sticky tongues.
Giant palm Salamander
The giant palm salamander has one of the most powerful tongues in the animal kingdom. It accounts for one-third of its body length. It can grow up to 7 inches, with a tongue that stretches as long as 2 inches.
A salamander’s tongue covers almost 80% of its head and body length, excluding the tail. The tongue is attached to the floor of their mouth.
They have extremely fast and powerful tongues, which they shoot out at a high velocity to capture their prey. Salamanders can stretch their tongue to twice its length in just 7 milliseconds.
Salamanders usually depend on flies, termites, and small insects for their food. The sticky saliva on their tongue helps them to catch their prey more effectively. They can catch their prey by flickering their tongue in less than half a second.
Okapi has long, dark tongues, which accounts for one-fifth of its body length. It can grow up to 98 inches, with a tongue that stretches as long as 18 inches.
Their tongues are long enough to reach their eyes and eyelids. Okapis use their tongues to clean their ears as well as their eyes.
An Okapis tongue is purplish-black in colour, and is powerful enough to grasp and manipulate objects. They curl their tongues around branches and vegetation, and pull them into their mouth to eat.
Since okapis tongues are usually out of their mouth while eating, the black color of the tongue protects them from sunburn. They can consume around 60 pounds of foliage every day with the help of their long and muscular tongue.
Animals use their tongue in an entirely different manner when compared to humans. They use their tongue to position their food, sense their prey, and even to chew their food.
You might have noticed that most of the animals who have long tongues relative to their size usually have sticky tongues to catch their prey. Ant-eating mammals, have one of the longest tongues when compared to other species of animals.
Which animal in our list surprised you the most? Do let us know in the comment section below.