Don’t underestimate the tongue, a muscular organ that humans use for licking, breathing, tasting, swallowing and speaking. But this organ varies widely in color, shape, length and function across the animal kingdom. Whereas human tongues are pink and typically just over 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) long, the anteater has a 2-foot-long (60 cm) tongue and the blue-tongued skink has a brilliant blue one.

Here’s a look at 20 amazing animal tongues and the science behind them.


(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you’ve ever seen a giraffe’s impressive 21-inch-long (53 cm) tongue, you’ll know that it’s not pink. Rather, the tallest living animal in the world has a dark-colored tongue that looks like a mix of purple, blue and black. That’s because giraffes (genus Giraffa) tongues are covered with a lot of the pigment melanin, which acts as a type of sunblock to protect the licker while it reaches for tender leaves.