Do Penguins Have Tongue?

Penguins are flightless birds, mostly found in the southern hemisphere. Due to their habitat nature, they always live beside the sea. Like other birds, they don’t fly for food, so they hunt underwater for their prey (an animal killed by another animal as food). Penguins have a torpedo-shaped body, large head, short neck, and elongated body. They have short, wedge-shaped tail, their feet made them perfect swimmers.

Like other beings, Penguin has a tongue which is rearward pointed consists of sticky, spiny, teeth like bars. Since they do not have teeth, they won’t chew the food; instead, they swallow the food. Penguins have sharply pointed beaks so they can easily catch the fish, squid, and krill though they are slippery.

Can penguins taste the food? 

Usually, every being has five basic tastes such as sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and meaty flavor which is commonly known as umami. Tasting is the primary function of the tongue, due to the presence of buds in it, we can identify and differentiate the taste. But Penguins don’t have taste buds to taste the umami flavor of fish.

Yes, the receptor channels present in the tongue of penguins doesn’t support to taste the sweet, bitter, and umami flavors. Some research on penguins says that they can identify the characteristics of salty and sour.

George Zhang, the paper’s corresponding author, made genetic research on penguins. He says penguins are living in a cold environment. So, they lost their tasting capacity. At low temperatures, the tongue’s receptor channels function very poorly on detecting the flavors of sweet, bitter and umami.

George Zhang states that – “Their behavior of swallowing food whole, and their tongue structure and function, suggest that penguins need no taste perception, although it is unclear whether these traits are a cause or a consequence of their major taste loss.” 

Genetic research on penguins says – ” it is clear.” Due to the presence of non-functional taste buds of sweet, bitter, and umami in the tongue, penguins are not capable of tasting their yummy food. And it’s believed that other aquatic beings like whales and dolphins also lost their tasting genes except for salt channels. 

What is the color of the Penguin’s tongue?

Penguins are greedy, they eat fish, squid, krill and other aquatic beings to survive. Penguins have an orange-colored tongue that has spiny barbs that looks like teeth. Penguins have large keratinized bristles( hair-like structured fibrous protein). This protein helps the penguins in catching the aquatic organism though they are slippery. 

    Gentoo penguin chick tongue


Much research on penguins says that receptor channels present in the tongue are “effectively non-functional” in Penguin’s ancestors. Finally, we can conclude that penguins have a tasting sense organ that doesn’t use to taste their prey. 


Image Source:

  1. Gentoo penguin chick tongue by Liam Quinn / CC BY

I got interested in penguins from a young age and as I grew I realized that penguins are such fascinating birds. I made it a mission to create a website where all information about penguins could be accessed in an easy to read format.

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