FunNature & AnimalHow do fish swallow if they lack a tongue?

How do fish swallow if they lack a tongue?

The tongue is a movable muscular organ that enables feeding. In the case of human beings, it is not only in charge of giving us the sense of taste and thus enjoying food, but it is also essential in the process of chewing and swallowing food. That is why most vertebrate animals have one. Amphibians and reptiles, for example, often have sticky tongues also to capture their prey. However, have you ever seen a fish’s tongue?

Most fish have a bony structure called basihial ( basihyal ) in the upper part of the mouth that is slightly assimilated to a tongue, but it is not: it does not contain papillary taste buds, nor is it a muscle, so its mobility is quite limited. So most fish feed by suction , directly, something that, in water, can be done quite easily.

However, there is a type of amphibian fish, the so-called mud fish ( Periophthalmus ) that neither has a tongue, nor does it feed under water. This small animal rises to the surface to feed on worms, insects and small crustaceans and has developed an incredible kind of hydrodynamic tongue that helps them catch and engulf their prey.

A team from the University of Antwerp analyzed the way in which five specimens of mud fish from Nigeria were fed, performing CT scans of one of them and recording high-speed video and X-ray videos of the other four eating shrimp in a plexiglass panel.

Apparently, the fish stored a large amount of water before surfacing and, when they did, they released it on their prey causing it to be surrounded by water. When they had it between their jaws, they closed them sucking in the water again, which served as a tongue with a retractable movement .

In addition, the tongues of all vertebrates are linked to the hyoid bone, a bone that fish also have linked to their basihial. But whereas fish that feed underwater move it downward , fish in the mud manage to move it upward, which is very useful for this endeavor.

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