Mudskippers use watery tongue to slurp up snacks on land


Mudskippers feed on land using tongues made of water, a new study shows.

Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

When a mudskipper moves from water to land, it brings a mouthful of water that it uses as a tongue to move food to the back of its throat and into its belly, researchers report March 17 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. It is the first time scientists have seen an animal use a tongue made of water to eat on land. The whole process happens in less than half a second, which is why it has been hard to detect. The researchers argue that tongues of water may have helped creatures transition from water to land millions of years ago.

Stills from high-speed video show frame by frame how a mudskipper uses its water tongue. Blue outlines the water blob. Orange outlines the food being slurped up. Michel et al/Proc. B 2015
photo of Ashley Yeager

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

More Stories from Science News on Animals

From the Nature Index

Paid Content