Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wednesday Wonder: A Tip o' the Tongue

Today's Wednesday Wonder is Mother Nature, which never fails to surprise and awe. To wit: scientists at Brown University who have been studying a certain species of bats (Glossophaga soricina) have determined that the bats are born with a "hemodynamic nectar mop", that is, a tongue tip designed by nature to use blood flow to improve ability to feed. As blood flows, small "hair-like" structures go erect, extending tongue length and surface area, thereby allowing optimal amounts of nectar to be "mopped up" and consumed at once. 

Here's a wonderful video made available with the news release about the study findings, which have been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study's lead author Cally Harper and her colleagues Sharon Swartz and Beth Brainerd say additional study and understanding of the bats' vascular system could inspire innovations in medical technology designs, including development of more flexible mini surgical robots.

Be sure to click on the news release link to see an up-close image of the "nectar mop". That image also appears in Kenneth Chang's "Tongue Like a Mop" at The New York Times (May 10, 2013).

Also of interest: the robotic bat wing Brown researchers have built.

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