Research

An efficient nectar mop: Bats use blood to reshape tongue for feeding

A natural nectar mop

Hovering at a flower demands enormous energy. Blood flow in their tongue tips allows bats to extend hair-like papillae instantly, increasing the tongue’s length and surface area and thus the amount of nectar lapped up in a single stroke. Credit: Cally Harper in the Brainerd-Swartz Lab/Brown University

Brown University scientists have found that a species of bat uses blood flow to reshape its tongue while feeding. The quick dynamic action makes the tongue an effective “mop” for nectar and could even inspire new industrial designs. Findings are reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.