Do fish have tongues?

In this post, we will answer the question “Do fish have tongues?”. We will also discuss the fish tongues’ main characteristics.

Do fish have tongues?

Although many fish species have tongues, they are not the same as those seen in mammals. While mammals have muscular tongues for tasting, eating, and swallowing, the tongue of a fish is a bony structure derived from the mouth’s floor that protects the ventral aorta. 

In addition, parasites can cause the loss of the tongues of several fish species, even some that do not have tongues. Some fish tongues even have teeth, which aren’t required for chewing food but can aid in the swallowing of prey. 

What is the structure of a fish tongue? 

A fish tongue, also known as a basihyal, is a bony structure that sits on the mouth’s floor. Because the basihyal resembles a tongue, you might mistake it for one that performs the same duties as ours if you manage to catch a glance of it. 

The basihyal, unlike a mammal’s tongue, is not muscular and lacks taste buds, therefore while it is located in the same area as a mammal’s tongue, it is not directly analogous. 

To put it another way, a fish tongue is essentially an extension of the fish’s mouth’s base. It is thought to have developed to protect the ventral aorta of the fish, which is located near to the fish’s mouth and may be damaged if prey came into contact with it. The ventral aorta is the artery that connects the heart to the aortic arches and is responsible for delivering blood to them. 

What are cod tongues and how do they work?

However, despite the fact that cod tongues appear on the menu, they are not actually cod tongues. The fried cod tongues, despite their name, are not tongues at all, nor are they basihyal. So, paradoxically, the item that leads me to believe that many fish have tongues isn’t even a tongue. Known as “cod tongues,” this muscle is taken from the back of a cod’s neck and used to make a soup. Fish tongues are a delicacy that is made by battering, seasoning, and frying a piece of cod tongue muscle.

Tongues of Fish with Teeth 

The tongues of certain fish have teeth on them. It’s right, you read that correctly: you are correct. Some fish have fangs on the tongues of their bodies. They have a purpose, no matter how bizarre it may look at first glance.

Interestingly, the tongue teeth of some species are not built to aid in the chewing of prey, but rather to aid in the swallowing of prey. In order for prey to be able to go back to the front of the mouth, they must instead head towards the neck, which is made possible by the teeth pointing backwards.

Brown University’s research on how fish and mammals chew differed, revealing that many fish use their tongues to shove food backward into their mouths, whereas mammals use their tongues to arrange food for grinding. 

Konow and his colleagues released publications demonstrating how some fish species with teeth in their mouths chew. According to their findings, the chewing action is formed by the tongue in some of these species, which begins in the upper mouth and goes lower and backwards before going forward and upwards.

Invasion of fish tongues by parasites 

The teeth aren’t the only feature on a fish’s tongue. The basihyal, or tongue, of fish, is infected with parasites. Parasitic crabs, for example, penetrate the base of the tongue, causing it to become detached and so allowing the parasite to replace the tongue. 

When they feed on their hosts’ blood or mucus, these parasitic tongue biters are known to cause serious illness. Some people believe that these parasites survive by consuming remnants of the food that the fish consumes, however, this is not true. Although the parasites do not kill the host, research suggests that they typically eat on the tongue until it is no longer there, after which they take its place.

What mechanisms do parasites use to attach to fish tongues? 

Isopods, parasitic crustaceans, attach themselves to the fish’s gills first. If the tongue is not occupied, the parasite will move from the gills to the mouth and reproduce. The parasite will devour and replace the tongue here. 

The tongue-biting isopods start as males, but when they connect to the fish’s tongue, they transition into females, according to Denham Parker of Rhodes University. If a male parasite attaches itself to the fish’s gills, the parasites will procreate, and the female parasite will release fertilized eggs into the water. 

Is it possible for fish to live if they have parasites on their tongues?

If a fish has tongue parasites, it can survive, but its growth may be hampered. When fish are infected with tongue parasites, feeding and breathing become more difficult, but the fish will generally survive the parasite infection. The parasites will remain in the fish until either the parasite or the fish dies. 

Is there a tongue in a goldfish? 

Because goldfish are one of the most popular fish to maintain, many goldfish owners are interested in learning more about their behavior and anatomy. You can see the bony component along the bottom of their mouth when they open their lips if you look closely when they open their lips. Goldfish are one of the few animals that have a tongue (basihyal). 

Is it accurate to say that fish have taste receptors?

In humans, taste buds are commonly connected with the tongue, although this is not the case for fish. The taste buds found on the inside of fish’s mouths as well as the outside of their bodies, generally on the outside of their lips, confirm that they do exist in fish. Even though taste buds require moisture in order to function properly, because fish live in water, they may survive both on the outside of their bodies and in the interior of their mouths.

Fish can find food more easily because they have taste buds inside and outside their mouths. The Catfish, for example, has approximately 100,000 taste buds spread around its body and on its barbels, significantly more than many other creatures. On the other hand, humans only have roughly 5,000 taste receptors in their lips, whereas animals have thousands.


In this post, we answered the question “Do fish have tongues?”. We also discussed the fish tongues’ main characteristics.

If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know in the comments section below!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Do fish have tongues?

How does a fish tongue appear? 

The majority of fish, like amphibians, have a tongue. It’s a bony structure in the lower region of the mouth. It’s also known as basihyal, and it has extremely limited motion and no muscles that are similar to those found in the human tongue. 

What exactly is the function of a fish’s tongue?

We know that the fundamental function of the tongue in humans is to taste food, but fish’s tongues are devoid of taste buds. As a result, fish are unable to taste food with their tongue. 

What is the mechanism through which a fish’s mouth protects the ventral aorta?

Fish have evolved a bony tongue to protect the ventral aorta, which is an artery that delivers blood from the heart’s ventricle to the aortic arches, according to the researchers. The ventral aorta is located near the mouth, as shown in the picture below. As a result, while swallowing large portions or complete prey, the tongue in fish protects the ventral aorta from the impact of food. 

What allows fish to ingest food with their tongues?

It’s worth noting that fish do not chew their food in their mouths as people do. They catch and grip their prey using their teeth. Humans use their tongues to arrange food for chewing inside the mouth, whereas fish use their tongues to swallow food by forcing it back into the farthest part of the mouth to be processed. 

Is it possible for fish to taste food with their tongue? 

We’ve learnt that fish don’t have taste buds on their tongues, thus they can’t taste their prey with their tongues. You might be wondering how fish taste their prey if they can’t taste with their tongue. Fish have taste buds on their exterior bodies, including their fins, but not on their tongues. Fish can taste their food without swallowing it because of this. Catfish have around 100,000 taste buds throughout their bodies, but humans only have 10,000 taste buds on their tongues.

Are there teeth on the tongues of fish, as some people believe? 

Yes, certain fish had little teeth on their tongues, such as salmon, Glossanodon, and osteoglossomorphs. Fish with teeth on their tongues have a better time holding, rasping, and swallowing their prey. 

What is a parasite that feeds on the tongue? 

Known scientifically as Cymothoa exigua, the tongue-eating louse is a parasitic isopod that infects fish by entering their bodies through their gills and attaching itself to the fish’s tongue. This parasite gradually consumes the fish tongue until it eventually replaces it with its own body. Tongue biters are another name for these parasites. The fish are discovered to be able to survive the parasitism, although breathing and eating become challenging.


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