News / Science & Technology

Bats Convert Tongues Into Nectar Mops

Blood flow in their tongue tips allows bats to extend hair-like papillae instantly, increasing the tongue’s length and surface area and, thus, the amount of nectar lapped up in a single stroke. (Cally Harper in the Brainerd-Swartz Lab/Brown University)
Blood flow in their tongue tips allows bats to extend hair-like papillae instantly, increasing the tongue’s length and surface area and, thus, the amount of nectar lapped up in a single stroke. (Cally Harper in the Brainerd-Swartz Lab/Brown University)
VOA News
A new study on how bats use their tongues to collect nectar could lead to a new generation of medical devices.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,  showed that the bat Glossophaga soricina is able to rapidly engorge numerous hair-like structures on the tip of its tongue with blood to form a perfect mop for nectar. By extending the hair-like structures, both the surface area and length of the tongue are enhanced, allowing maximum efficiency for nectar gathering.

The findings could be combined with informaion about how hummingbirds and bees morph their tongues to extract nectar and lead to new medical technologies, say scientists at Brown University.

“Together these three systems could serve as valuable models for the development of miniature surgical robots that are flexible, can change length and have dynamic surface configurations,” the authors of the study wrote.

The whole process for the bat to transform its tongue takes only an eighth of a second, the study said, adding that the hovering process over a nectar filled flower uses a lot of calories so the bat must be able to extract the calories in the quickest way possible to be worthwhile.

“Typically, hydraulic structures in nature tend to be slow like the tube-feet in starfish,” said lead author Cally Harper, a graduate student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University in a statement. “But these bat tongues are extremely rapid because the vascular system that erects the hair-like papillae is embedded within a muscular hydrostat, which is a fancy term for muscular, constant-volume structures like tongues, elephant trunks and squid tentacles.”

That the bat had hair-like structures on its tongue was not new to scientists, but previously they thought they worked only like the limp strings on a mop.

The authors of the study do not know if other nectar-feeding bats have similar tongues, but speculate that other creatures like the honey possum might also have a similar way to gather food quickly.


You May Like

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs