Penguin Have No Taste (Sort Of)

Although most bird species already lack the ability to detect sweet flavors, penguins loose out on even more and are not even able to detect bitter or pleasant savory tastes. By analyzing the genomes of a range of penguin species, scientists discovered that all penguins appear to lack the genes that allow them to detect these flavors.

penguins-antartica-taste

It is likely that penguins lost their taste between 20 to 60 million years ago a period that saw dramatic climate cooling in Antarctica, as the necessary protein are inhibited at very low temperatures. It may also be down to penguins slippery diet, as the primary aim of their bristles-covered tongues (see photo below!) seems to be to catch and hold their prey after which it is swallowed whole.

Penguins thus perhaps do not need taste perception, although it remains unclear whether these traits are a cause or a consequence of their major taste loss, according to the study published in Current Biology. Unfortunately for the penguins it still means they are left with only sour and salty sensations when enjoying their slippery meals.

penguin-mouth.jpg

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