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Cats are always licking their hair, and they spend as much as 24% of their waking time combing their hair. Today we will take a closer look at how cats use their tongues to comb their hair.
There are many “barbs” on the cat’s tongue. To be precise, these structures should be called filiform papillae. There are also many tongue nipples on a person’s tongue, but they are all soft and soft, while the cat’s silky nipples have a keratinized structure and are as hard as a person’s nails. These barbs can help the cat to touch the roots and skin of the hair when licking the hair, so that it can be fully cleaned.
A recent paper published on PNAS carefully observed and analyzed these “barbs” on the cat’s tongue. One of the important findings is that these “barbs” are not simple solid thorns. In fact, their tips have a U-shaped empty tube, as shown in the following figure:
(In the study, six kinds of cats were observed with “barbs” on their tongues. Their tips have similar hollow structures. From left to right in the picture are domestic cats, short-tailed cats, pumas, snow leopards, tigers and lions. )
When cats lick their hair, these “barbed” tip cavities suck up saliva and apply it to the depths of the hair and to the skin. In addition to cleaning, the evaporation of these liquids also helps to dissipate heat. Although the amount of liquid drawn to the tip of the “barb” is only about 5% of the entire tongue surface, only this part of the liquid can reach the depth of the hair.
The following picture is a demonstration using food coloring. You can see that the “barb” cavity automatically sucks the droplets:
Through thermal imaging, you can intuitively see the effect of licking hair on heat dissipation:
In addition, the researchers also created a brush using 3D printing in the same way as the cat’s tongue. Compared with ordinary combs, the advantage of this “cat tongue brush” is that it can easily remove the hair attached to it:
Sounds like it can be promoted~
For more information, see the original paper: http://www.pnas.org/content/115/49/12377
And related reports: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/11/how-do-cats-stay-so-clean-video-reveals-secrets-feline-tongue
The screenshots and original videos in the text are from the paper.
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