The sheer number of weird and wonderful animal tongues that exist not only make them ideal systems for studying evolution, scientists say, but also great sources of inspiration for future surgical tools and medical robots.
"Tools modeled after bat tongue tips would be beneficial because they would be flexible – and therefore able to bend and conform to the curves of blood vessels and intestines – and able to simultaneously change length and surface configuration," said Harper.
Cang Lam, a California-based medical engineer, agreed. The shape-shifting bat tongue could be used as a model for devices able to wind through small blood vessels and then later change shape, from straight and narrow to a circular brush.
"One device I can immediately think of is a clot retriever for stroke patients," said Lam, who also did not participate in the research.