What appeared 350 million years ago and what could be short, long, blue, black, red, two-colored, thin, forked, sticky, cartilaginous, tubular, and in which many microorganisms live in all cases? Do you give it to the cat? Yes, it’s a language! This week’s edition The science dated May 26 “praising language” determining organ in vertebrate evolution, in a long, richly illustrated article. On the cover of the American weekly blue tongue Tiliqua scincoides, reptile from Oceania, stands out on a black background.

Language origin “is one of the greatest mysteries in our evolutionary history” Explain The science Sam Van Wassenberg, functional anatomist at the University of Antwerp, Belgium. Before leaving their aquatic lair, vertebrates did not have one and used suction to swallow their prey. That’s why when they arrived on earth, “They needed something to replace the water” to lure prey down their throats because the air isn’t dense enough for that purpose, says Kurt Schwenk, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Connecticut.

Swiss army knife organ

This organ then began to specialize and adapt to the use of its owners. In reptiles, it ranges from the sucker tongue of a chameleon to the forked tongue of snakes, which use it to “taste” their environment. The tongue of birds is most often cartilaginous, sometimes bony, and most often serves “drive belt for feeding food from front to back”. Except for hummingbirds, which have a tongue that is shaped to suck sweet nectar from flowers.

For a scientific journal “in mammals, language reveals all its versatility.” Devoid of tendons, bones and joints, it is only muscles. Indispensable for lactation, it is also used to regulate the body temperature of dogs, for example, and allows bats to locate their prey through echolocation. And people need it for speech.