Total Body Experience

If you thought that you only tasted your food with your tongue, you have been mistaken! Neurobiologist, Thomas Finger, discovered that taste-sensing cells can be found all over the body, not just in the mouth. This was found by studying a mouse whose genes had been altered to turn taste buds green when a light is shined on them. As you might expect, taste buds could be see all over the tongue, but to scientist’s surprise they were also found inside the nose. This led to the experimentation of whole body taste buds to uncover that they are not only found on the tongue but also the nose, stomach, and even lungs.  “I’ll bet you that in terms of total number of cells, there are more taste cells outside the mouth than inside the mouth,” Thomas Finger states.

Taste buds were studied by working with fish, due to the large amount of taste cells that can be found on their skin. Being able to taste simply by skin exposure is an important adaptation of fish because it allows them to “taste” the worms found in mud that they are looking to eat, for example with searobins. Rocklings also use these skin taste cells by sensing predators. This discovery led to wondering if fish were able to taste outside their tongues, why couldn’t other animals? However, finding taste cells on animals is not easy because there is a thick layer of dead skin cells covering them, which led to finding them in areas such as the nose. Taste cells have also been found in the digestive tract and lungs.

If you would like to read more about this article, please visit the following website: http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/71492/title/FOR_KIDS_Full-body_taste

Written by: Melissa Marques

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