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Hummingbird tongues and science

August 24, 2015

The amazing thing about the recent research showing that hummingbird tongues have tubes that act as pumps is this one piece of observation:

In the hundreds of licks studied, the researchers observed capillarity only once, acting on a single tongue groove. This occurred when, during initial tongue protrusion, one of the groove tips adhered to the feeder wall before the tip reached the surface of the nectar pool and the groove tip bent as the tongue continued to move forward. Thanks to this unusual incident, high-speed video captured one of the two grooves being filled by expansive filling, as usual, while the other was being filled by capillarity. This offered an opportunity to directly compare the two mechanism and measurements clearly demonstrated that the capillary filling rate was significantly slower than expansive filling.

There is nothing that substitutes for being in the right place with the right instruments and having the luck to get the right observation!

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