WASHINGTON – Cat lover knows when kittens the groom, their tongues are quite scratchy. Using high-tech scans and some other…
WASHINGTON – Cat lover knows 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 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 fluids, or clean rugs or apply medications” on hairy skin, says Georgia Tech’s leading researcher Alexis Noel, who is applying for patenting a 3D-pressure, heavy-inspired brush.
Cats are fast and spend up to a quarter of their waking hours of 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 the cat’s tongues that they are not covered in solid wives but in claw-shaped hooks. They are flat and backward, from the road to, with a tension of the heavy muscles, the little spines jump straight up, she explained.
The Great Surprise: These spines contain hollow bobbins, Noel found. When she turned to zoos and taxidermists for preserved tongues to investigate, she found bobcats, pumas, snow leopards, even lions and tigers sharing this dragon.
When Noel touched the tips of preserved spines ̵
1; called papillae – with drops of food color turned up the liquid. A household’s nearly 300 papillas 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 the key to 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 Proceedings 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 groom pattern found saliva from the sole’s surface alone, simply unable to penetrate so deeply. And a thermal camera showed when they prepared, evaporating the saliva chilled cats.
Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.
Lauran Neergaard, Associated Press