Show Details

Toad Tongues

July 3, 2008

The toad’s super-fast tongue is inspiring the design of new medical and industrial technologies.


The fastest tongue in town. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

When it comes to championship tongues, it’s hard to beat the toad. That’s because toads have some of the fastest tongues in the world – handy for catching prey.

KIISA NISHIKAWA (Northern Arizona University):
The time between when a toad opens its mouth and when its tongue hits the bug is about 1/50th of a second so it’s an extremely fast movement, one of the fastest movements found among animals.

That’s Northern Arizona University biologist Kiisa Nishikawa who studies the biomechanics of toad tongues. She says the toads hold their mouths closed with friction. To grab prey, they release their tongue in a rapid-fire burst, like a spring. She says that understanding toad tongue mechanics could lead to better treatments for neuromuscular diseases, and inspire the design of better motors, prosthetic limbs and even robots. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.