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15 Animals With Long Tongues

animals with long tongues, giraffe

Have you ever wondered how some animals could reach their food in hard-to-reach places?

Well, the answer could be found in their tongues! These animals’ tongues are their most important tool for survival. From the long, sticky tongues of anteaters to the prehensile tongues of giraffes, the animal kingdom is full of creatures with great tongues perfectly adapted to their unique environments.

This article will explore some fascinating animals with long tongues and discover how they use them to thrive in the wild.

Giant Anteater

giant anteater
Ellen from Ann Arbor, MI, USA, Giant Pangolin

The giant pangolin is the largest species of pangolin from the family Manidae, the only mammals with scales. Their tongue is 71 cm (28 in) long. The tongue is so long it can be longer than the head and body combined.

This is why their tongue connects to the bottom of a rib cage. Their tongue is sticky, perfectly slurping up ants and termites. They lack teeth, so no chewing is involved, and the insects are swallowed whole.


giraffe licking lips

Giraffes are the tallest animals in the world and are known for their long necks. They also have a long tongue that measures 46 cm (18 in) long. Their tongue is not the standard pink colour. Instead, it is a dark blue purplish colour because it has a high density of the pigment melanin. This protects the tongue from being burnt by the hot African sun.

The giraffe’s tongue is prehensile, meaning it is specially adapted for grasping and holding onto objects. The tongue is covered in a rough, sandpaper-like texture that helps them strip leaves from branches to eat. Additionally, the tongue is highly flexible and can bend and twist in all directions, allowing the giraffe to reach leaves and branches that are difficult to access because of the sharp thorns growing on the plant.



The okapi, also known as the forest giraffe, has a tongue measuring up to 36 cm (14 in). Just like the giraffe, its tongue colour is dark blue or black to stop it from getting sunburnt.

The okapi’s tongue is so long it can lick its ears and often be seen cleaning around its eyes using its tongue. They use their tongue to strip leaves off branches in the Ituri Rainforest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they live.

Asian Elephant

Asian elephant

Asian elephants are the second largest land animal after their cousin, the African elephant. Elephants are known for their long trunk, but they also have a long tongues that can measure 71 cm (28 in) and weigh 12 kg (26 lbs).

An elephant’s tongue acts as a muscle by pulling through food from its trunk inwards down its throat. You can see the elephant doing this in the video below. Part of the tongue wraps around the apple to grip it and pulls it further into its mouth.

Blue Whale

blue whale
NOAA Photo Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The blue whale is the largest living animal in the world, so it’s only natural that it has the longest tongue. The blue whale’s tongue is a massive 5.5 m (18 ft) long and weighs 3,600 kg (8,000 lbs), the same weight as a female African elephant.

Besides using their tongue to taste, scientists believe it may play a role in expelling water from their mouths. They can take in up to 80,000 litres of water when swallowing a krill mouthful.

Green Woodpecker

green woodpecker
hedera.baltica from Wrocław, Poland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The green woodpecker’s tongue is 10 cm (4 in) long, so long that it wraps around the back and onto the top of its skull. Green woodpeckers feed mainly on ants, their larvae and eggs.

They are a common site on ant hills, darting their tongue in and out, which is sticky because of their enlarged salivary glands. They rarely drum on trees as their beaks are significantly weaker than other woodpeckers.

Sun Bear

sun bear

The sun bear is the smallest bear species in the world but has the longest tongue of all bears. With a tongue length of 20 – 25 cm (8 – 10 in). Sun bears use their long tunnel to lick insects out of crevices and to feed on honey from bee’s nests.

They have long, sickle-shaped claws, which are used to hook around tree branches when they go searching for honey. Also, their paw pads are hairless, increasing their climbing ability.

Tube-lipped Nectar Bat

The tube-lipped nectar bat holds the world record for having the longest tongue relative to its body size for any mammal. Their tongue is 8.5 cm (3.3 in) long, making it 150% longer than their body. If a human had the same tongue anatomy, we would be walking around with tongues that were 2.7 m (9 ft) long.

They have evolved to be able to use their tongue to reach the bottom of long tube-shaped flowers to feed on the sugary nectar. In return for the flowers providing them with nectar, they help pollinate each flower they visit with the pollen they pick up while feeding.


panther chameleon

The average chameleon’s tongue is twice the length of its body. The parson chameleon is the largest chameleon in the world, with males having a body length of up to 51 cm (20 in). So they can have a tongue length of up to 102 cm (40 in).

Chameleons move around slowly but make up for it when catching their food. Chameleons catch their prey by firing their tongue out at up to 60 miles per hour in a hundredth of a second. At the tip of there is a sticky ball of muscle that, once it strikes an insect, there is no chance of escaping.



The tamandua, pronounced ‘tuh-man-doo-ah’, also called lesser anteaters, have a tongue that is 40 cm (16 in) long. Their tongue is perfect for going down tunnels in ant and termite colonies. They have no teeth and rely on their muscular gizzard to break up and digest their food.

It needs to be strong as they can consume 9,000 insects a day. They use their powerful four limbs equipped with huge claws to dig up insects. They also use their claws as weapons against predators like the harpy eagle, jaguar and ocelot.

Eurasian Wryneck


The wryneck spends its time on the ground hoovering up ants with a tongue that is 10 cm (4 in) long and very sticky. They also eat moths, spiders, woodlice, beetles and their larvae.

The wryneck gets its English name from the twisting and hissing display they do when they feel threatened. They can turn their heads backwards nearly 180°. They live in open countryside, orchards and woodlands.


hippo with its mouth open waiting to be fed

The hippo is the world’s third heaviest land animal, weighing up to 4,500 kg (9,900 lbs). A journal published in 2009 on hippos took tongue measurements of two subjects. A 49-year-old female hippo had a tongue length of 60 cm (24 in), while a 4-year-old male had a tongue length of 45 cm (18 in).

They spend all day relaxing in the water in groups called pods of 40 – 200 hippos. They leave their pools under cover of darkness to feed on grass and fallen fruit. Hippos are one of Africa’s most dangerous animals, attacking at least 500 people annually.

Goliath Frog

goliath frog
Ryan Somma, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Frogs, on average, have a tongue that is one-third the length of their body. The Goliath frog is the largest frog in the world, with a length of 32 cm (12.6 in) it’s tongue is roughly 11 cm (4.4 in) long.

They are also called the giant slippery frog. They live on the fringes of forests that border rivers and waterfalls in Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon. Adults eat other amphibians, crustaceans, fish and insects but will also eat small mammals, birds and even bats.

Lungless Salamander

lungless salamander
Alex Karasoulos, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lungless salamanders have a tongue that is 50 – 80% of their body length. So depending on the species, there are 29 of them their tongue can be 5 – 7.5 cm (2 – 3in) long. Like chameleons, they too far their tongue out at lightning speeds to catch insects. The tongue is super sticky.

As you can guess from their name, they are genuinely lungless. They breathe through their skin. The skin must remain moist at all times to absorb oxygen.