The re-energized focus on Long Island Sound's story is obvious in the colorfully redesigned main hall, which has been renamed Newman's Own Hall in celebration of a $1.2 million grant from Newman's Own Foundation."

–  The Norwalk Citizen

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Expounding on Expanding Lorikeet Tongues

By Dave Sigworth, publicist of The Maritime Aquarium

Spend any amount of time in The Maritime Aquarium’s new “Lorikeets” summer exhibit and you get a little spoiled.

Lorikeets at The Maritime AquariumHold out a cup of nectar and it’s likely that one or more lorikeets will land on your hand or your arm or your shoulder or even your head to dip their tongues into that sweet sauce. (They may even mop around on your hand, your arm or your face with their tongue, which is a harmless but entirely different sensation.)

As the birds are feeding, take a good look at how they’re feeding.  Lorikeets’ tongues are specially adapted for collecting nectar and pollen – not out of paper cups at The Maritime Aquarium (although that works quite well), but naturally out of flowers in their native South Pacific environments.

Lorikeets tongues. Lorikeets at The Maritime Aquarium.

Two iillustrations of a lorikeet's tongue: at left, with the papillae at rest; and, right, with the papillae erect.

A lorikeet’s tongue has brush-like shapes at the end, which can lie flat when the bird isn’t feeding but will rise up when the bird is. These bonus shapes are called papillae (pronounced pa-PILL-i).  The papillae expand the tongue’s surface area and increase the chance of collecting pollen.

If you’ve ever watched a dog drink, you’ve seen that the dog curls its tongue back to collect the water in its mouth – working almost like a scoop. With lorikeets, thanks to the papillae, there’s no scooping. The bird uses rapid back-and-forth pepperings with its tongue.

You don’t have to buy a $3 cup of nectar to visit “Lorikeets.” Entry into the aviary is free with your Maritime Aquarium admission. But having birds land on you is certainly exciting, and holding a nectar cup will greatly increase your chances.

It also spoils you. I find it terribly disappointing now that the sparrows and chickadees and cardinals in my backyard don’t just land on my hand when I hold it out.  It’s almost as if they’re sticking their tongues out at me. But it’s OK because their tongues aren’t as interesting.


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Mission: The Maritime Aquarium inspires people of all ages to appreciate and protect
the Long Island Sound ecosystem and the global environment through living exhibits,
marine science, and environmental education.

10 North Water Street  •  Norwalk, CT 06854
Tel: 203-852-0700

The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation.

© 2016 The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk

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