By Josie  February 27th, 2023

do sharks have tongues?

Let's investigate further

We all know that sharks have countless of lethal, razor-sharp teeth, but do you know whether they have tongues or not?

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Yellow Wavy Line

Why Is Research on Sharks Important?

Understanding the anatomy and function of the shark’s tongue is crucial for understanding the behavior and ecology of these animals.

Additionally, it could potentially lead to practical applications for human use.

The teeth are designed to grasp and tear their prey apart, with the upper teeth used for gripping and the lower teeth used for cutting.

Shark Anatomy: Teeth

Their teeth are constantly replaced throughout its life.

Shark Anatomy: Jaws

The upper jaw of a shark is not connected to the skull which allows it to protrude and create a larger bite area.

The lower jaw is connected to the upper jaw by a series of muscles and ligaments.

Sharks do have a small, triangular-shaped structure located at the back of the mouth, against the base of the skull - called a "basihyal."

Shark Anatomy: Tongue

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The Basihyal

The basihyal is composed of cartilage.

If looked at closely, we can notice the presence of small bumps on its surface called papillae.

The papillae on the tongue aid in holding the food in place as the shark chews.

Their tongue helps them bite and chew their food.

Function of a Shark's Tongue

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Yellow Wavy Line

When they bite into something, the basihyal moves forward and presses against the food, allowing them to determine if it’s worth eating.

The Significance of a Shark's Tongue

Benefits & Applications by Humans

Scientists could use the ability of the basihyal to detect chemicals in the water to develop new technologies for detecting pollution or oil spills.

Researchers could even use the basihyal’s sensitivity to certain chemicals to develop new methods for detecting diseases, such as cancer.

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Tongues In Bottom-Dwellers

They need this they spend a big fraction of their time on the ocean floor, where visibility is especially low.

Bottom dwellers (e.g bullhead sharks) have a basihyal that’s particularly well-developed.

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Yellow Wavy Line

Sharks have tastebuds, but not on their tongue.

Sharks have taste buds and sensory receptors located in their mouths and on their skin, which allow them to taste and sense their environment.


How Do Sharks Without Teeth Feed?

They don't use their tongues to grope or swallow their prey whole.

They use their gills to filter plankton and small fish out of the water.

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These marine-beasts have many impressive adaptations that enable them to thrive in our oceans.