Cat tongue spines help smear saliva and inspire new 3D-printed brush

10505976 3x2 large


Tiger tongues are not easy to come by. So when 15-year-old Sumatran tiger Kavi died at an Atlanta zoo in 2016, Alexis Noel and David Hu made sure they had dibs on his tongue.

It joined specimens from five other cat species — lion, tiger, cougar, bobcat and domestic cat — in a study of microscopic tongue structure.

And it turns out your pet moggie’s tongue isn’t much different to its big cat counterparts. It’s covered in syringe-like spines that smear saliva deep into thick fur.

Reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today, the Georgia Institute of Technology pair took inspiration from their findings to 3D print a flexible brush.

They say it could be used to help apply skin ointments on pets or by the textiles industry to detangle delicate fibres without damaging them.

Watch a cat for any length of time, and you’ll see they spend plenty of time contorting themselves to lick every bit of fur possible.

Grooming not only helps remove dirt and other debris, but it also acts like an evaporative cooler.

To see how their tongue helps them stay cool and clean — and to see if it’s the same across cat species — Dr Noel and Dr Hu first had to get their hands on some samples.

The tiger tongue, for instance, came from the Atlanta zoo.

The rest came from a wildlife rescue facility in Tennessee — “sort of like a ranch for big cats”, Dr Hu said — and taxidermists.

Learn more!

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Join 35,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community!

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Follow Adafruit on Instagram for top secret new products, behinds the scenes and more

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers –

Maker Business — Challenges in trade between China and U.S. highlighted by forced labor bill

Wearables — Zip it, zip it good

Electronics — When to opt for alkaline batteries

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: Arduino 2.0, Podcasts and much more! #CircuitPython @micropython @ThePSF @Raspberry_Pi

Adafruit IoT Monthly — BBQ Smoker, Emoji Telegraph, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Thank You!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — New Products 9/21/2022 Featuring Adafruit ENS160 MOX Gas Sensor – Sciosense CCS811 Upgrade – STEMMA QT / Qwiic

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at !

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.