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Animal Uvulas

September 19, 2006

Do animals have uvulas, too?


Introducing your uvula. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Your uvula is that plumb-bob of tissue that dangles at the back of your throat. Brian Mihura of Houston, TX, notes that cartoon animals often have uvulas, but wonders if real animals do. Otolaryngologist Yehuda Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University looked for uvulas in nine types of animals, including sheep, baboons and chimps. Of all the animals, he found that only a few baboons had underdeveloped uvulas.

YEHUDA FINKELSTEIN (Tel Aviv University):
We can conclude that only the human has the uvula. Because in all the other mammals, there was nothing—no uvula.

Finkelstein’s research indicates that the uvula evolved to lubricate our vocal cords, and it’s also needed to make sounds used in some languages.

Call us at 1-800-why-isit with your science question. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.