High-Power Ballistic Tongue Projection in Hydromantes

Salamanders of the genus Hydromantes in the family Plethodontidae have the longest tongues of any salamanders, by absolute as well as relative measure. This genus of salamanders can extend the tongue more than half the length of the body, excluding the tail. The species in this movie is Hydromantes platycephalus, which is from the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. It lives at high elevation in rocky areas along streams and at the edges of snow packs. It uses its webbed feet to climb vertical rock faces, and its long tongue to pick off its insect prey. Notice that it moves slightly backward from the recoil of the tongue being launched. The rate of this movie is 2250 images per second.

The projectile tongue of Hydromantes can be shot to 80% of body length, or more than 6 cm. Hydromantes is the only plethodontid genus found in the Old World, and is restricted there to Italy and a small part of southern France. There are currently seven recognized species in Europe. Hydromantes platycephalus is one of three species found in the New World.


The photo above shows the tongue of Hydromantes supramontis fully extended. Roll over to see the anatomy and click on it to see a diagram of the anatomy.