The experience of indulging in your favorite foods involves not only tasting flavors but also feeling the textures sweep across your tongue. Most of the bumps on the tongue’s surface are filiform papillae, which enable tactical sensation. In this scanning electron microscope image of the human tongue, magnified 1,500 times, the papillae appear as cone-shaped buds. “They sense being deflected by something that touches them, including pressure from a heavy liquid,” says Robert F. Margolskee, associate director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. He adds that the papillae appear to be scaly because they are constantly in a state of shedding old cells and growing new ones.
This article was originally published with the title What Is It?.