National Geographic Series Shows Bat With Supertongue

Tuesday, 05 Jun 2012 09:41 AM

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The premier episode of the National Geographic Channel documentary series Untamed Americas will show the first footage of Ecuador's long-tongued bat, according to USA Today.

The elusive Andean bat has a 3½-inch tongue, which is one and a half times as long as its body. People would need tongues about nine feet long to match the bat's proportions. The bat keeps its tongue stuffed down its throat, doubled up in its esophagus.

One of the bat's 2005 discoverers, biologist Nathan Muchhala of the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, says "A pretty extreme adaptation, evolving a tongue longer than your own body. Just amazing footage that we can now really see how it works."

Pollination biologist Justen Whittall of Santa Clara University in California says the footage "is very impressive, but so is the story it tells about evolution."

Charles Darwin theorized in 1862 that creatures would evolve features such as long tongues to take nectar from long-stemmed flowers. Whittall says that research on the long-tongued bat advances that proposition. The flowers grew longer so the bats would have to get their heads covered in pollen.

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