Similar to fingerprints, everyone also has a unique tongue print. Tongue is a muscular organ which helps us to talk and in starting the process of digestion. It is also one of the five important sense organs which allow us to sense different tastes responding to pressure and heat. It is basically composed of skeletal muscle fibers whose movements can be controlled by us. The average length of the human tongue is 10cm. The blue whale has got the largest tongue of all animals. Its tongue weighs around 2.7 metric tons.
There is a mucous membrane that covers the skeletal muscle and protects the microbes and pathogens from entering the digestive system. The tongue has two types of muscles – intrinsic and extrinsic muscles. The intrinsic muscles allow the tongue to change its size and shape (point or roll). These muscles are not attached to any bone and very much important for speech and swallowing food. The extrinsic muscles are those connected to the jaw bone and keep the tongue firmly attached to its place. There is a median septum at the middle of the tongue that divides the tongue into two halves.
There are two important parts of the tongue – anterior and posterior parts. The part closer to the throat is called posterior and the part visible at the front is the anterior one. The bumps seen at the posterior end of the tongue are called papillae. Taste buds are smaller structures found in between the papillae. They are actually made of cells called basal and supporting cells that help maintain about 50 gustatory receptor cells. These gustatory receptor cells are receptors that detect taste. The four common tastes are – sweet, salty, bitter and sour. Each of these tastes triggers different gustatory receptor cells. There is one other fifth taste called umami meaning savory in Japanese. The umami receptors are found to act in the same way as bitter and sweet receptors.