Animals Wildlife What's the Deal With a Giraffe's Tongue? By Catie Leary Writer and Photographer Georgia State University Catie Leary writes and curates visual stories about science, animals, the arts, travel, and the natural world. our editorial process Catie Leary Updated June 21, 2019 Long giraffe necks. (Photo: EcoPrint/Shutterstock) Share Twitter Pinterest Email Animals Wildlife Pets Animal Rights Endangered Species A giraffe extends its long tongue to munch on tree leaves. (Photo: Jose Gil/Shutterstock) From their curious low-frequency humming to their propensity for violent, ritualistic behavior, giraffes are one of the most fascinating animals of Africa. One part of a giraffe's body that you may not know much about, however, is the tongue. Much like their necks, giraffe tongues are exceptionally long — usually measuring between 18 and 20 inches long. They're also prehensile, which means giraffes have fine-tuned muscular control over it. This allows them to grasp and pull leaves and shoots into their mouths. Because their main vegetation of choice, acacia, is thorny, giraffe tongues are equipped with thickened papillae and thick saliva to protect their mouths. And the tongue's dark purplish color? It's meant to prevent sunburn. That might sound strange at first, but it makes sense when you consider that giraffes spend the vast majority of their day sticking their tongues out to grass shoots and leaves.