How to drink like a bat | Science News

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How to drink like a bat

This one just sticks out its tongue and throbs carry nectar to its mouth

By
8:00am, October 16, 2015
feeding orange bat

TRICKY TONGUE  The enigmatic tongue of the orange nectar-feeding bat picks up nectar without lapping or sipping.

Watch a bat drink

Sorry, English language, but “tongue pump” or even “conveyor belt” may turn into a verb for drinking.

Some very patient biologists have observed tropical bats drinking nectar in a way never documented before. Finding a term for this feeding is a challenge.

“Odd” is what Mirjam Knörnschild called it when she saw an orange nectar-feeding bat (Lonchophylla robusta) extend its tongue to drink. The bat didn’t lick, lap, sip, slurp or even take its tongue out of the liquid. Along a deep groove on each side, edges undulated as if the tongue clenched in waves like the human intestine. Nectar just slid up the grooves. “It was like a conveyor belt,” says Knörnschild, now of Free University of Berlin.

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