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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Century-Old Cat Tongue: Papillae-On

      I'm short on time this week so will present you with this link to a 100-year-old image of a cat's tongue in today's Science Friday :

      The text from the NPR Science Friday link is also reproduced below:

       "You’re looking at a 3 mm-wide section of a cat tongue more than a century old. David Linstead’s captivating image was a winner in this year’s Wellcome Image Awards.

       "The picture is actually a composite of 30 polarized light micrographs, or photographs taken with a digital camera and a microscope. A retired cell biologist, Linstead used microscopes professionally as a research tool, and later formed his “hobby addiction” after purchasing one, then another, and still more microscopes on eBay (also his go-to source for specimen-plated slides like this one). His particular interest is in combining modern illumination techniques with vintage slides dating from 1860 to 1910, the heyday of slide-making."

      “The original person who made this slide likely had no thought of how it would be used in 100 years’ time,” says Linstead, who estimates that it dates back to the 1890s. “But when I saw it, I immediately knew it had great potential.”

     "The promise lay in the way the slide was prepared. It wasn’t stained, for one, which allowed the cross-section’s true colors to be observed with polarized light—a feature of most cutting-edge microscopes of the Victorian age. Those yellow streaks, for instance, are horizontal muscles, and the sparse purple ones are muscles that run vertically."

      "Furthermore, the original tissue had been injected with a dye—probably a solution of iron salt in warm gelatin, Linstead surmises—to make the capillaries, seen here as black squiggles, apparent. (The only alteration Linstead made to the image was to Photoshop the background gray, because the original magenta “didn’t go well with the rest of the slide.”)"

      "Colors aside, the serrated ridge may be the most intriguing aspect of this picture. Those rough bumps, or papillae, are the reason that a kitty’s tongue feels like sandpaper when it licks you. When a cat grooms herself, the papillae

 act like a comb to remove dirt and loose hair. But they also serve a grislier purpose: rasping meat off of bones. Fluffy might look sweet, but Linstead’s striking image is a reminder that the cat napping on the couch is a fierce predator."

       The other 19 images in this year's Wellcome awards, including these specialized Purkinje brain cells, are also quite intriguing.

     Let me know what you think. . .Hoping the cat doesn't have your tongue, er, thumbs. 

     [With fond thoughts of Lego's Noosie.]



Purkinje cells showing well-defined organization:


  1. Steph,

    Gorgeous photos, inventive photographic technique.

    Thanks to the shout-out to my late tabby cat Noosie (Nuisance). When I gave a shout-out to her she would start trotting me-ward, mewingly. She did the same when I gave a whistle-out.

    Noosie was a good mouser when I gave her an opportunity, but I never saw her licking meat from mouse bones with her sandpapery tongue. That's because after she rendered her prey motionless, she would normally nip it by the scruff of its neck and bring it to me. She was soooo proud of herself. I would get her to drop it (no easy task), confirm its demise and perform a mercy killing if a "Noosie Killing" hadn't occurred, and bury or otherwise dispose of the rodent.

    Her tongue got a workout though with lots of milk-lapping and, especially, with seemingly incessant fur-grooming. Consequently she coughed up hairballs galore. That was tough to watch. I tried to minimize this with regular brushings, which she actually enjoyed... for the first minute or so.

    Great headline, by the way. So fitting because le papillon (butterfly) emerges from a caterpillar. The French word for caterpillar, of course, is autochenille or just chenille. Be wary not to misspell it "chienille," which, I believe, might be French for dogpillar, although I am not quite so sure of that.

    Do you remember the singer Chenille, of The Captain and Chenille? Chenille emerged into a beautiful butterfly, while the Captain was a DarylDragonfly. Maybe that's why it didn't work out.

    Speaking of Papillon, I saw that movie on TCM about a month ago. I usually like 1970s-era movies and McQueen's and Hoffman's movies,but this one underwhelmed be a bit.

    The should make a prequel titled "Chenille."


    1. Thanks, Lego. Great Noosie remembrances.

      I am happy to be reacquainted with Chenille. . .and maybe the Captain, too. ;-)

      Do you #hashtag those long names?!

      The origins of "Cat got your tongue" are uncertain and/or grisly so I opted not to go there. . .


  2. That photo of Purkinje cells may be pretty, but it doesn't do them justice, IMHO. They look sorta random, whereas the actual organization of Purkinje and other cells of the cerebellar cortex is remarkably regular and brilliantly functional, the kind of thing you really don't want Intelligent Design types to see.

  3. Great observation, jan. I added an image of this Purkinje cell organization above. And a fellow Jan as their discoverer -Jan Evangelista PurkynÄ› - is noted also.

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks, jan. Do you see many practical applications of knowing this structure in your PA work, jan?

    2. Nope, not a single one. The neuronal organization of the cerebellum at the level of these diagrams wasn't even mentioned in my neuroanatomy course in PA school, Which is as it should be, I guess. But the beauty of the system impressed me during my neuroscience grad school days. What's really mind-blowing is realizing that every cell in your body has the same DNA, and that none of them has this wiring diagram, or that for any other part of the brain, encoded there. It's all an emergent property of a self-organizing system that becomes expressed during development. And this isn't one of the "higher" brain centers by any means; quite the opposite.

    3. Amazing to know this emergent property of a self-organizing system is expressed during development. No peeking at the map ahead of time!

    4. You couldn't if you wanted to.

    5. So, is that "mind-blowing" realization jan speaks of fodder for proponents of Intelligent Design? If yes, why? Don't all scientists agree that the sciences and nature are beautiful, wondrous, symmetrical, Fibonaccial and, often, at least as far as we have come in our understanding, beyond or present ken? And barbie?

      I am going to publish a paper on "Interior Design." My thesis will be that the universe is based on the principles of Feng Shui."

      Hey, maybe Feng Shui is the answer to the NPR puzzle this week. The best kitchens have it, for sure.


    6. Quite the design conundrum, isn't it?

    7. "Interior Design" reminds me of a favorite literary quote from Marx:

      Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.
      Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.

    8. The way topics meander here at Partial Ellipsis of the Sun makes me s M i L e. Thanks for that quote, jan.

  5. Increasing downpours. We sure had a torrential rain this afternoon.

  6. Did the kindergartners toast their carbon atoms over bunsen burners afterwards? Did you tell them about Kekule's dream?

    1. No toasting, jan. We might have toasted/roasted them outdoors but it was raining too hard.

      Did it really happen?

    2. Are you implying that my organic chemistry professor might have lied?

    3. No. Kekule might have made it up though. . .

  7. I just learned about these. Have any of you seen one of these arrows?

  8. No, but now I'll have to waste some more time on Google maps. Reminds me of the quip that IFR stands for "I Follow the River". ( or Railroad).

    1. Please post a link if you find one. Yellow or not. ;-)

    2. These are great. I'd like to find one on Google Maps. I also did not know U. S. Post Office was changed to U. S. Postal Service in 1972.

    3. At the end of the article above are links to Google Maps images of the arrows.

      And did you know that the Pony Express is no more? How about ZIP codes? (Hint: it's an acronym.)

      Sorry about your snow. It's 82 F here now. Watching a groundhog sunning himself at the top of my driveway. I don't think they really care much about their shadows.

    4. Missed those links the first time 'round. Thanks.

      No Pony Express or ZIP codes? Whoa.

    5. Just cleaned up a bunch of broken tree limbs. A full 2 weeks of rain brought everything to full leafing and the wet, heavy snow snapped far too many limbs around town. Thankfully the peach, plum, and aprium trees are ok.

    6. aprium : pluot :: liger : tigon?

    7. Don't be as ass. Or a horse. Be a mule or a hinny. I put gasahol in my Prius to give my hybrid vigor.

  9. Getting back to "papillon": Has anyone else noticed how the word for "butterfly" in various languages often seems... well, butterfly-like? Fanciful? Pretty, but a bit silly? Mariposa, schmetterling, farfalla. Not onomatopoeia, but what would be the word for this?

    Walked past a tree the other day with a tent caterpillar tent crawling with dozens of newly-emerged tent caterpillars. Never saw that before.

    I've always liked Tenniel's take on the insect.

    1. jan,

      I recall long ago reading about “phonetic intensitives,” letter combinations such as “sn” that appear in words with similar meanings or senses, such as sneak, snake, sneer, snide, snarl, snicker, snigger, snippy, snitch, snit, snivel, snob, snooty, snub, snoopy, snooker…

      Not quite the same, however, as your wonderfully fanciful list of “butterflies abound the world.” We may need a new category word.

      Love “schmetterling” though! I guess that’s about as butterfly-like, fancy and pretty as German gets.

      I’ve always been lukewarm to Tennille’s take on the subject.

      We must tread lightly on perpetuating this C&T linkfest. We do not want to metamorphose Steph’s PEOTS blog onto some compendium of schlocky, schmetterlicious bad 1970s-80 pop!


  10. Enjoying all the butterfly talk. Road trippin' but just put a post up. Hint: Papillon could lead you close to the answer. . .

  11. Enjoying all the butterfly talk. Road trippin' but just put a post up. Hint: Papillon could lead you close to the answer. . .