This image provided by Georgia Tech in November 2018 shows a comparison between cat pills from CT scans. (Alexis Noel…
WASHINGTON (AP) ̵
1; Cat lovers know when kittens the groom, their tongues are quite scratchy. Using high-tech scans and some other tricks, scientists teach how these sandpapery tongues help the cats to stay clean and stay cool.
The secret: Small hooks running on the tongue – with buckets built in to carry saliva deep into all that fur.
A team of mechanical engineers reported the findings Monday and said they are more than a curiosity. They can lead to inventions for pets and humans.
“Their tongue can help us apply liquids, or clean rugs or apply drugs” on hairy skin, “says Georges Tech’s leading researcher Alexis Noel, who is seeking patenting a 3D-pressure, heavy-inspired brush.
Cats are fast and spend up to a quarter of their waking hours grooming. Noel’s interest was piqued when her cat, Murphy, got her tongue stuck in a fuzzy blanket. Scientists had long thought that kittens were studded with small conformal bumps. Noel, working in a laboratory known for animal-induced technology, wondered why.
First, CT scans showed cats’ tongues that they are not covered in solid wings but in clawed hooks. They lie lying and backward, out of the way until, with a tension of the heavy muscles, the small spine straightens up, she explained.
The Great Surprise: The spine contains hollow bobbins, Noel found. When she turns to zoo and taxidermists for canned tongues to investigate, she found bobcats, pumas, snow leopards, even lions and tigers sharing this dragon.
When Noel touched the tips of preserved boilers – called papillas – with drops of food they stained the liquid. A household’s nearly 300 papillae hold a small amount of saliva released when the tongue presses on the fur, and then they turn up a little more.
The surface of the tongue is wet. But Noel saw clues that the spine was important for deep cleansing.
Papillas were only a little longer in lions than in households, although larger cats bigger tongues last many hundred, Noel and Georgia Tech professor David L. Hu reported in the Progress of the National Academy of Sciences.
Next, measured Noel cat fur, which holds a lot of air to insulate like a down jacket. Sure enough, compress the coat and in many types of cat matches the distance to the skin length of the tongue’s spines, she found. One exception: Persian cats with their super long fur as veterinarians care must brush daily to avoid matting.
A machine that imitated a cat’s grooms would find saliva from the sole surface alone, simply can not penetrate so deeply. And a thermal camera showed when the prepared evaporated saliva was cooled to the cats.