The Woodpecker’s Incredible Tongue


Photo by Mark Averitt

The woodpecker is the perfect wood drilling machine. In the previous article, we detailed out all the parts needed to allow the woodpecker to drill holes and also to keep it from going blind and killing itself with the 1000g of force it sustains when pecking. This just touched the surface of the problems the woodpecker poses for evolution. Namely, the woodpecker is equipped with one of the world’s most perplexing body parts, its tongue.

To start, the woodpecker has a very long and sensitive tongue (some are around 6 inches). This is extremely useful to find and reach bugs buried deep inside a tree (i.e. wood-boring beetle larvae). With most animals, the tongue simply runs back into the throat, not the woodpecker. The woodpecker has two little tubes that start at the back of the throat, circle around the back and top of the head, and then end together in the right nostril. The woodpeckers tongue forks back in its throat where it enters these two tubes. This incredibly unique design give the woodpecker the proper equipment to reach bugs burrowed way down in their holes. A long tongue is great for reaching bugs, but these little bugs don’t usually come out willingly. A long tongue by itself can’t pull bugs out who are holding on for dear life.

The woodpeckers tongue functions somewhat like a harpoon or a fishing hook. At the end of the woodpecker’s tongue are many little barbs facing backwards. This is perfect for hooking bugs and pulling out even the most stubborn ones. There is more though. For extra bug catching insurance, the woodpecker produces sticky saliva. If the barbs don’t get the bug, then the sticky saliva most likely will. Amazingly though, this saliva is composed in a certain way where it sticks to bugs but it won’t stick to the woodpecker’s beak or cause it to choke or swallow its own tongue. The woodpecker will simply use its sticky tongue to catch a bug, bring it back into its mouth where the bug will release and this bird gets a tasty meal.

In order for the woodpeckers’ abilities to make sense, nearly all of them had to be fully functioning and completely formed. It’s tail, feet, eyes, beak, neck muscles, skull, and specialized tongue all had to be in full working order just for a woodpecker to make a little hole and eat a bug. There are so many complex features working together in the woodpecker that this puts evolution in an impossible situation. Evolution simply cannot prove nor demonstrate with evidence how features so unique and dependent on each other could have come from time and chance.

Once again, God is the answer to this amazing bird’s existence. God has displayed one more example of a perfectly designed and created animal. In 1 Chronicles 29:11 David spoke these beautiful words, “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.” This world belongs to God, and His power is shown through the complexity and awesomeness of His creation. He deserves to be praised for what He is, “the Head over all.”


One thought on “The Woodpecker’s Incredible Tongue

  1. Pingback: Why Aren’t Woodpeckers Blind and Brain Dead? | BP's Fuel For Thought

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