Do Fish Have Tongues


Do Fish Have Tongues?

Although we’re used to seeing them without, turns out the answer is yes, fish do indeed have tongues! They are usually just not visible from the outside.

What Does a Fish Tongue Look Like

Fish tongues are usually very small in comparison to mammals. Most are small, flat and very firmly attached to the bottom of their mouths, where it lies against the throat. They are made up of two parts:

    • Filament – this is the part you can’t see, a thin, soft membrane that sticks to the floor of the mouth.


    • Denticles – the “teeth” of a fish tongue, providing a surface for grasping food.


What Do Fish Use Tongues For?

Most often, fish use their tongues to feed on small invertebrates, such as worms and shrimp, or to graze on plants. More often than not, the tongue will allow the fish to grip onto its prey tightly so it can swallow it whole.

In some species, the tongue also helps keep their gills clean by scraping away debris. Doing so allows the fish to breathe properly and increase their oxygen intake. Additionally, for some fish, the tongue will play a role in courtship rituals between males and females.

Do All Fish Have Tongues?

No. Some of the more primitive fish species do not have tongues, such as the lampreys, cartilaginous fish, and hagfish. Others, such as flatfish and the stargazers, have tongues but they’re either fully or partially missing.


The fact that fish have tongues is fascinating, and you’ll be amazed by the array of uses they have for them! The role tongues play in the lives of fish is further evidence of the complex ecosystems sustained by aquatic life.

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