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A viral picture illustrates a pet cat’s tongue when imaged under a scanning electron micrograph.

Ever questioned what a pet cat’s tongue resembles under a microscopic lense? Neither have we, till we encountered a extensively shared social media sites article of a multiplied pet cat’s tongue that resembles, well, a number of little tongues all stitched.

The picture we’re speaking about initial went viral in 2019 when it was shared to Reddit and also obtained greater than 46,500 upvotes. An inscription going along with the article read: “A cat’s tongue under a microscope looks like it’s made of other smaller tongues.”

A reverse-image search on the internet search engine TinEye returned 76 outcomes, among which took us to the supply digital photography firm,Science Photo Library A summary of the picture revealed that the variation most shared on social media sites was a lot more saturated than the initial, however that the picture was, without a doubt, genuine.

“The tongue is covered in many backward facing papillae (projections),” reviewed the subtitle “These tough structures are used to clean the cat’s fur and to rasp meat from its prey.”

A representative for Science Photo Library validated to Snopes through e-mail that the picture is, as a matter of fact, genuine. It was taken by Stephen Gschmeissner, a well-known scientific research professional photographer whose job has actually shown up in a variety of peer-reviewed research studies and also information magazines, consisting of Nature, The New York Times, and alsoWired According to his web site, Gschmeissner is a scanning electron microscopist that started colorizing pictures of examples in the late 1990s.

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In an e-mail to Snopes, the Gschmeissner claimed that the “photograph was taken from a domestic cat tongue specimen provided by a colleague who is a vet.”

The picture was caught utilizing a method called scanning electron micrograph (SEM) and also was multiplied at a price of 15 when published at 10 centimeters large.

“SEM is a microscope that uses electrons instead of light to form an image. Since their development in the early 1950’s, scanning electron microscopes have developed new areas of study in the medical and physical science communities. The SEM has allowed researchers to examine a much bigger variety of specimens,” clarifies Purdue University

“The SEM has a large depth of field, which allows more of a specimen to be in focus at one time. The SEM also has much higher resolution, so closely spaced specimens can be magnified at much higher levels. Because the SEM uses electromagnets rather than lenses, the researcher has much more control in the degree of magnification.”

Gschmeissner claimed that the tongue was refined traditionally for SEM imaging, that included being “dealt with, dried out, [and[ critical point dried coated in gold and photographed” in a type of SEM called a Field Emission Gun Scanning Electron Microscopy.

We also spoke with Alexis Noel, a research engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, whose research explores how cats groom and has been published in the reputable science journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Noel looked at the papillae, or fine structures on the surface of a cat’s tongue, under a microscope. She told us that cat papillae tend to be conical in nature, like the ones she photographed for her research: 


This photograph below, which was also published as part of the study, shows a close-up of a slice of a cat tongue and the papillae embedded within the animal’s tissue. 

This photo, which was also published as part of the study, shows a close-up of a slice of a cat tongue and the papillae embedded within the animal’s tissue. Taren Carter


Noel noted that she has looked through the microscope at tongues belonging to cats, bobcats, cougars, lions, snow leopards and tigers — all of which appeared to look more conical in nature and not “tongue-like.” 

She also cross-referenced the image in question with the following animal tongues: 

However, that discrepancy could be due to the different types of imaging equipment. Noel’s research used a micro-computed tomography (micro-CT), a type of 3D imaging that uses X-rays to see inside an object, slice-by-slice, according to Micro Photonics Inc. It’s like a CT scan but on a much smaller scale. A study that evaluated different types of scanning devices reported that SEM can reach magnifications of up to 1,000,000 times while light microscopy has a resolution of 1,000 times.

If you enjoyed this feline-friendly story, you might also enjoy the following:


“Fine Analysis of Fur Grooming in Cats.” EurekAlert!, Accessed 1 Apr. 2022.

Stephen Gschmeissner. Accessed 1 Apr. 2022.

Katica123. “A Cat’s Tongue under a Microscope Looks like It’s Made of Other Smaller Tongues.” R/Damnthatsinteresting, 1 May 2019,

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Keklikoglou, Kleoniki, et al. “Micro-CT for Biological and Biomedical Studies: A Comparison of Imaging Techniques.” Journal of Imaging, vol. 7, no. 9, Sept. 2021, p. 172. PubMed Central,

Kolata, Gina. “You’re Missing Microbes. But Is ‘Rewilding’ the Way to Get Them Back?” The New York Times, 19 July 2021.,

Ledford, Heidi. “‘Killer’ Immune Cells Still Recognize Omicron Variant.” Nature, vol. 601, no. 7893, Jan. 2022, pp. 307–307.,

Noel, Alexis C., and David L. Hu. “Cats Use Hollow Papillae to Wick Saliva into Fur.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 115, no. 49, Dec. 2018, pp. 12377–82. (Crossref),

“Print of Cat Tongue Surface, SEM.” Science Photo Library Photo Prints, Accessed 1 Apr. 2022.

Rogers, Adam. “Some Cancer Studies Fail to Replicate. That Might Be OK.” Wired., Accessed 1 Apr. 2022.

“Snopes Tips: A Guide To Performing Reverse Image Searches.” Snopes.Com, Accessed 1 Apr. 2022.

“Snopes Tips: Why Care If Research Is ‘Peer-Reviewed’?” Snopes.Com, Accessed 1 Apr. 2022.

“What Is Micro-CT? An Introduction.” Micro Photonics, 23 Feb. 2018,

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