By Amina Khan
4:44 PM EDT, May 8, 2013
Birds do it. Bees do it. And bats do it too: They use their weirdly gifted tongues to lap up as much nectar with every lick. The sugar-loving bats sport hundreds of hair-like structures on their tongue tips that stand on end when erectile tissue in their tongues fill with blood.
Those hairs hold extra nectar suspended between the erect bristles, according to a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – rather like a honey dipper picks up more sticky sweet stuff in between its ridges.
Study lead author Cally Harper, a biomechanist at Brown University, compared it to the method that cats use to drink liquid. Cats, as Times science writer Eryn Brown explains, seem to have an intuitive understanding of the laws of physics.
But bats' hairy tongues, Harper said, up the physics ante.
"They pull the same column of liquid – except they collect the entire column of liquid because it becomes entrapped in these hairs," she explained.
Click on the video above to watch the bat tongue in action. Check out our previous story for more of the secrets behind hairy bat tongue erections.
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