Do Fish Have Tongues?

November 26, 2023
David Sunnyside

The question do fish have tongues is often misunderstood. While some people think that fish have tongues to help them chew and swallow their food, this isn’t the case. Instead, the function of fish tongues is actually to protect their ventral aorta, which is an important artery that carries blood from the heart. The tongue can also help them sense their environment and communicate with other fish.

Do Fish Tongues Taste?

While some fish have a tongue-like structure called a basihyal, which superficially resembles a tongue, this is not a functional tongue. While it may look like a tongue, the basihyal does not have any muscles and is not covered in taste buds. Rather, it is an important part of the fish’s mouth that helps transport food and oxygen throughout the body.

Furthermore, the basihyal can also help detect movement or pressure changes in the water around the fish. While the lateral line system is the primary way for fish to sense vibrations in their environments, the basihyal can serve as a backup in some cases.

Interestingly, while fish don’t have a tongue that can taste their food, they do have taste buds on their bodies including their fins. This allows them to taste their prey without having to swallow it, which is helpful for avoiding poisonous or otherwise unpleasant-tasting foods. However, this is not the only way that fish can taste their food as they are also able to use their lips to ‘lick’ their food.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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