Do Sharks Have Tongues

First of all, all sharks do have tongues in their mouth but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they serve the same purpose as ours. Our tongue is a multi-purpose organ. We have a tongue that moves the food inside our mouth; it is very flexible; it has many taste buds and so on. Besides, with the help of this tongue, we can talk. However, that’s not the case with sharks. In most of the sharks, the tongue is merely a small chunk of cartilage that is not used for the most part. The shark’s tongue is short, chubby, and immovable and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that it is useless!

The Name of Tongue | Do Sharks Have Tongues

Now that it’s clear that all the sharks have tongues. But do you know that they are very much different than ours which is why they have a special name? The tongue of all sharks and even fish is known as basihyal. Unlike some sharks, majority of them do not really bother to use it for obvious reasons. Like ours, the shark’s tongue is located at the base of shark’s mouth. It gives help to lower bones that are somewhat related to gills (through which sharks breathe). Our tongue has taste buds on it but sharks do not have taste buds on the basihyal. The taste buds are spread out all over the shark’s skin and mouth from the inside. The taste buds are located on a special coating inside the shark’s mouth and throat and this coating is known as papillae. Thus, basihyal is not used to taste the food.

Grey Nurse Shark - Do Sharks Have TonguesEssentially, sharks are made up of cartilage and they inhale with the help of the pair of gills because they do not have lungs (and ribs). There is a large chunk of cartilage that stretches toward its mouth and also gives protection to the gills. The very last part of this cartilage is basically known as basihyal and it is the tongue of shark.

Want to know more? Just look out: Do Sharks Have Bones

Do Sharks Have Tongues

On the contrary, there are some sharks that have compressed and flexible basihyal. Among these, carpet sharks and bullhead sharks are prominent. They use the basihyal to swallow their victim. First, the taste buds inside the mouth decide whether the prey is good enough to swallow or not and then by means of very strong muscles of throat and basihyal, these sharks are able to gulp down their victim easily. Another very well-known shark that makes use of its basihyal while hunting is cookiecutter shark. Cookiecutter shark has big basihyal in its mouth. It rips the prey open while extracting the flesh out of it by means of its basihyal and eats fish like squid, pelagic and cetaceans and so on.

Want to know more? Just look out: How Many Teeth Do Sharks Have 


“Shark Biology”. Education-Most Commonly Asked Questions. ICHTHYOLOGY at the Florida Museum of Natural History. n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2014.

“Kid Questions: Do Sharks Have Tongues?”. Deb. Science @ Home. 31 Oct. 2011. Web. 21 Sept. 2014.

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