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.
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.”