Daily Bulletin


The Conversation

  • Written by Hannah Nicholas, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Biology, University of Sydney

This is an article from Curious Kids, a series for children. The Conversation is asking kids to send in questions they’d like an expert to answer. All questions are welcome – serious, weird or wacky!

Do worms have tongues? - Ren Ashley, age 3, Melbourne.

That’s a really interesting question, Ren. The short answer is no. Worms do not have tongues.

Some people think that worms have tongues because certain worms do have something in their mouth that they can poke out, like a tongue. It is called a “stylet” and it looks like a needle.

Worms that eat plants pierce the outside of the plant with their stylet. They then use the stylet like a straw, to suck out food from inside the plant. But the worm’s stylet isn’t actually a tongue.

image A worm’s stylet is not technically a tongue. Flickr/wintersoul1, CC BY

Since you were curious enough to ask the question, I imagine you would be interested to know a bit more about worms and about tongues.

Read more: Curious Kids: Do astronauts get space sick when they travel from Earth to the International Space Station?

You have probably seen worms in the soil in your garden, or maybe your family has a worm farm, where worms eat up your fruit and vegetable scraps. These worms are called earthworms.

But they are not the only kind of worm. In fact there are many thousands of different creatures that we call worms. Some worms are so tiny that you need a microscope to see them. Other worms are very big. One type of worm, called the bootlace worm, lives in the sea and can grow to be as long as an Olympic swimming pool!

image This flatworm, called Nymphozoon orsaki, lives in the sea. Flickr/budak, CC BY

So how do all these worms live without a tongue? To answer this question, we need to think about what a tongue does.

One of the important jobs of our tongue is to crush up food when we are eating. Inside our tongue is a set of muscles. These muscles let our tongue move food around in our mouth. Our tongue crushes food by squashing it up against the hard part at the top of our mouth.

image Tongues help animals crush up food. AAP Image/NEWZULU/MIKE GEE, CC BY

Like us, worms need to crush up their food. But instead of using a tongue, worms have muscles in their gut that do this.

Another important job of our tongue is to taste food. Our tongue is covered in tiny bumps. Inside those bumps are taste buds that can sense whether the food we are eating is sweet or salty or sour or bitter. That can help us work out if a food might be dangerous.

Read more: Earthworms are more important than pandas (if you want to save the planet)

Without a tongue, worms don’t have taste buds. But earthworms can still taste, using special cells inside their mouth and other cells that are in their skin. As well as tasting, these cells also allow earthworms to smell. By sensing smells and tastes in the soil, worms can work out where they need to go to find food.

So even though worms don’t have tongues, they can use different parts of their body to do some of the jobs that our tongues do.

Hello, curious kids! Have you got a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to us. You can:

* Email your question to curiouskids@theconversation.edu.au * Tell us on Twitter by tagging @ConversationEDU with the hashtag #curiouskids, or * Tell us on Facebook

image CC BY-ND Please tell us your name, age and which city you live in. You can send an audio recording of your question too, if you want. Send as many questions as you like! We won’t be able to answer every question but we will do our best.

Authors: Hannah Nicholas, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Biology, University of Sydney

Read more http://theconversation.com/curious-kids-do-worms-have-tongues-83503

Writers Wanted

Tokophobia is an extreme fear of childbirth. Here's how to recognise and treat it

arrow_forward

The forgotten environmental crisis: how 20th century settler writers foreshadowed the Anthropocene

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Business News

Nisbets’ Collab with The Lobby is Showing the Sexy Side of Hospitality Supply

Hospitality supply services might not immediately make you think ‘sexy’. But when a barkeep in a moodily lit bar holds up the perfectly formed juniper gin balloon or catches the light in the edg...

The Atticism - avatar The Atticism

Buy Instagram Followers And Likes Now

Do you like to buy followers on Instagram? Just give a simple Google search on the internet, and there will be an abounding of seeking outcomes full of businesses offering such services. But, th...

News Co - avatar News Co

Cybersecurity data means nothing to business leaders without context

Top business leaders are starting to realise the widespread impact a cyberattack can have on a business. Unfortunately, according to a study by Forrester Consulting commissioned by Tenable, some...

Scott McKinnel, ANZ Country Manager, Tenable - avatar Scott McKinnel, ANZ Country Manager, Tenable



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion