Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hummingbird assumption

Ecologist Margaret A. Rubega and her graduate assistant Alejandro Rico-Guevara of the University of Connecticut discovered in 2011 - to their surprise - that the tongue of the hummingbird does not draw up liquid by means of surface tension as had been believed since 1883. Instead, it has a most incredible makeup (IMAGE ABOVE AND VIDEO HERE). Each side of the forked tongue is lined with fleshy hair-like structures which are flattened until the bird sticks them into a flower. Called lamellae, they extend like rows of coils to trap the nectar as the tongue is pulled past the surface of the liquid and moved back into the throat. The scientists made their discovery by photographing 30 live hummingbirds (representing 10 species) with a high-speed video camera. But their research also required performing microscopic necropsies on 20 additional specimens. But when they a manipulated the tongues of the dead birds, they performed the same action! This means it requires no additional energy - a good thing, since the hummingbirds use it up buzzing from blossom to blossom thousands of times per day...

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