The tongue of cats contains 300 small, hollow and hard papillae In the form of a spoon, they allow them to wet the base of their fur with saliva, researchers from the United States observed using high-resolution cameras.
Until now, the consensus indicated that these nipples were conical in shape, like claws, the scientists wrote in his article published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). In fact, the nipples end in small curved and hollow tips, the shape of which attracts and keeps the saliva under tension and is transferred to the base of the hair.
"It really looks like a cut in half"AFP agency Alexis Noel, co-author of the article with his laboratory manager at the Georgia Institute of Technology, reports. The papillae "act like straw: when they put it in liquid, it rises in this little cavity."
"When a cat licks, she manages to attract these fluids to the tips and make them penetrate deep into the hair", says this research mechanic who has dedicated his doctoral work to the languages of frogs and cats.
Cats, the researchers recall in their article, spend a quarter of their waking lives, erasing their tongues (the cat sleeps 14 hours a day).
They retain their fur to remove dirt and fleas and avoid knots. This layer contains an upper layer that protects it and a lower layer of fluff for heating.
Cats only sweat pads feet: when hot, licking allows them to cool the body, plus saliva also has a cleansing ability.
Papillae measure an average of 2.3 millimeters in six species of cats studied, including the domestic cat, tiger and lion. The authors studied the languages of dead cats, and also caught in action the languages of domestic cats with a camera that records 100 photos per second.
Researchers interested in the practical application of these results They believe that a comb for humans can be improved on a cat model.
But they also registered a patent for possible industrial use: “This can be very useful for carpet cleaning technologies, for injecting liquids into fibers,” said Alexis Noel.