This Is What a Cat’s Tongue Looks Like Under a Microscope

The psychedelic image is actually a vintage microscopic slide from the late 1800s.

This is a 3 millimeter section of a cat's tongue, as seen through a microscope (with the help of some black dye).
This is a 3mm section of a cat’s tongue, as seen through a microscope (with the help of some black dye).

I didn’t realize how much a cat’s tongue looks like a saw blade!

The astonishing photo above was one of the finalists in this year’s Wellcome Image Awards. It’s actually a vintage microscopic slide (from the late 1800s) of just a tiny portion of a cat’s tongue.

Polarized lighting details a cross-section of a cat tongue. The barbs protruding outward are known as papillae — they feel like sandpaper when a cat licks you. The rough texture helps cats scoop up food and hold onto it.

By: pmarkham
Here’s how you’ll see a cat’s tongue with your own eyes. See the barbs? Those are papillae. By: pmarkham
This is a closeup view of the same photo from above.
This is a closeup view of the same photo from above, showing more detail.
This is yet another detail view of the photo from above. Fascinating, right?
This is yet another detail view of the photo from above. Fascinating, right? (And kind of psychedelic!)

For this award-winning image, the blood vessels of the tongue were injected with black dye so the capillaries could be seen. At the time (the late 1800s), this was a revolutionary technique — and even today, the colors are breathtaking.

According to Fergus Walsh, a medical correspondent for BBC, “This striking image looks a bit like bubbling lava…. Sometimes images that show nature in extreme close-up are both beautiful and illuminating.”

Sources: Wellcome Images, Forbes

Gayle Hickman

View posts by Gayle Hickman
Gayle Hickman has been researching and writing about pet behaviors since 2011. In addition to Petful, her articles have appeared on Reader's Digest, Yahoo Shine and WebVet, to name a few.

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