A cat’s tongue acts as a hairbrush

Researchers at Georgia Tech have unmasked another example of cats’ efficient anatomy: Their rough pink tongues are actually hairbrushes far better at detangling — and much easier to clean — than the tools available for humans. This is no small detail for cats, who can spend half of their awake hours grooming. Those licks remove fleas and dirt, spread body oils and improve circulation. Despite common wisdom, the tongue that carries this out is not like sandpaper at all, researchers said. Cat tongues are covered in tiny, backward-facing spines that are shaped like claws and made of keratin, the same material fingernails are made of. In a “single grooming sweep,” the researchers wrote, a cat tongue moves in four directions, helping the tongue essentially act as a flexible comb that adapts to the knots it encounters. And as shown by the 3D-printed cat tongue — made at a scale of 400 times the size of an actual cat tongue — the flexible spines lie flat when they’re not in lick mode.

Advance in understanding whale shark

An international team for the first time successfully completed an ultrasound scan of a living whale shark’s ovary. The achievement could lead to the possibility of artificially breeding the world’s largest fish, the scientists said. Whale sharks, which grow to more than 33 feet in length, can be found in warm seas around the world. Details of its reproductive process remain unknown. The species is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

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