Smelling in Tongues
© Jack Goldfarb, Texas Tech University
Great Plains Skink
For some squamates, the world is alive with chemical cues. Prey, predators, mates and favorite burrows--each has a distinct chemical signature, or scent. Every animal in this exhibition can respond to these cues; all have nostrils and can smell. But to find out which squamate species are expert "nose hounds," don't look at noses. Look at tongues.
The tongues of these squamates are long, narrow and forked, and they're not used to seize prey. The tongues flick in and out, in and out--why? They're working as part of an amazing chemoreceptive system, collecting odor molecules and delivering them to special sense organs in the roof of the mouth. Nose hounds use their tongues for everything from detecting the location of their prey to finding mates.
This diagram shows the relationships between the living squamate groups. It also includes the fossils on display. All these groups have highly developed odor sensing ability as well as sharp vision. There are about 6,600 so-called "nose hounds." Each live "nose hound" squamate in the exhibit is represented by a small picture; fossils displayed here are shown by name.