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DINO TONGUES



Dinosaur tongues. What an eccentric topic. 

However.. someone asked (I think it was Kel) if a _Tyrannosaurus_ could 'lick'.
Well, I doubt it. My primary reason for doubting this is simply that it would
be _dangerous_ for an animal with rows of nasty sharp teeth to be able to
protrude its tongue - similarly, as I said previously, crocs can't move the
tongue out of the mouth. That way they don't bite it. And I don't see that a
theropod would _need_ to have a tongue that can be moved out of the mouth. They
don't lick water up (but probably scoop and lift their heads), they most
probably don't rasp flesh off bones (they have nipping incisiform teeth for that
and can break up or swallow whole bones anyway), and they almost certainly don't
lick their babies or each other as a kind of allopreening thing. 

I imagine a tyrannosaur tongue as a stout, fleshy and quite muscular, mobile
organ that can be lifted from the roof of the mouth but not protruded beyond it.
I'll be damned if I can guess where Crichton got his dumb chameleon-tongued
tyrannosaur in JP from.

> I've kind of been wondering, especially since I resqued that hawk the
> other day, just how close are birds' tongues to dinosaurs?  Are birds'
> tongues specialized more than dinosaurs would have been because of
> flight?   Would dinosaurs have tongues more similar to mammals in
> function, simply because they lived analogously?

It's possible, and perhaps likely, that _some_ dinosaurs had tongues convergent
on those of some mammals. Ornithopods have often been restored with elongate,
ungulate-like prehensile tongues - obviously unlike the relatively immobile
tongues of crocs and certain birds. I assume that you could guess whether or not
this was a likelihood by looking at muscle attachment sites on certain skull
bones but, where ornithopods have been restored this way, it's often not been
acknowledged that they already have very effective cropping organs - beaks.
They do not need mobile tongues as a food-gathering device. So the jury on dino
tongues is, AFAIK, still out. 

As for bird tongues being models for non-bird ones, I would guess that the
generalised bird tongue _is_ a good model. Plenty of birds (nectivores and
frugivores like lorikeets, honeyeaters and hummingbirds for example) have very
odd tongues with special barbs and processes or of very long, extendible design.
Parrots in general are famous for their hyper-mobile, very powerful fleshy
tongues. Woodpecker tongues parallel those of anteaters or pangolins and loop
round the cranium with the root near the nostril! (pangolin tongues, BTW, root
just in front of the *pelvis*!!) No need for those in other dinosaurs. Normal-
looking (to us) tongues like those in ratites, wading birds and raptors I
imagine to be like those of extinct dinosaurs: raptor tongues (well, accipitrid
tongues anyway) are quite stout and mobile with a bluntish tip. I suspect most
theropods had a design of this type. Pointed tongues appear in birds with
elongate skulls but relatively few non-bird dinosaurs are of this form so maybe
pointed tongues were rare amongst them.
  
> The Red Tailed hawk had a tongue which near the base had a round hole
> kind of like the heat sensor inside the mouth of a rattlesnake (but on
> the tongue NOT the mouth) 

I think the hole to which you refer is the fleshy opening for the trachea - in
both certain lepidosaurs and archosaurs (I don't know how widespread this
morphology is) it exists as a soft tube that is connected to the base of the
tongue and can be extended forward a little way. It permits breathing while
large objects are being swallowed (at least that's what I've learnt it does in
snakes). 

Heat sensor inside the mouth of a rattlesnake? What? ASAIK, snakes don't have
any heat sensors inside the mouth. Heat-sensitive pits are sunk into the labial
scales (i.e. around the edge of the jaws) - they are especially noticeable in
rattlesnakes (crotalines) and earn the family the alternative name 'pit vipers'
(that is, vipers with pits). Incidentally, for those who still can't distinguish
_Chondropython_ from _Coralla_, they do have different styles of pit
configuration!

"It is too late for me, my son"

DARREN NAISH