Hummingbird tongue tips dynamically trap nectar by rapidly changing their shape during feeding.

“We demonstrate that the hummingbird tongue does not function like a pair of tiny, static tubes drawing up floral nectar via capillary action. Instead, we show that the tongue tip is a dynamic liquid-trapping device that changes configuration and shape dramatically as it moves in and out of fluids.” (Rico-Guevara and Rubega 2011:9356)

“Our work with dead specimens demonstrates that neither the unfurling nor the furling of the lamellae requires any muscular work; the process of nectar trapping results purely from the structural configuration of the tongue tips. We are unaware of any other biological mechanism for fluid trapping that is similarly dynamic, yet requires no energy expenditure to drive the opening and closing of the fluid trap.” (Rico-Guevara and Rubega 2011:9357-9358)

Last Updated August 18, 2016