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Why do giraffes have purple tongues?

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If someone asked you to describe a giraffe, you would probably start with the long neck, spindly legs and patterned fur. But what about that purple tongue? 

The front of a giraffe's tongue is dark in colour (purple, blue or black) but the back and base of it is pink. Although not scientifically proven yet, many experts believe that this darker pigment is nature’s way of protecting giraffe tongues against ultraviolet rays. Giraffes use their long tongues to wrap around leaves that grow at the tops of trees, so this type of "sunscreen" helps to prevent them from getting sunburned while they eat.

Another danger is that there might be thorns hiding among those delicious green leaves. Good news: the giraffe’s mouth has another way of keeping it safe! The saliva has antiseptic properties, which means the spit can help to heal the tongue if it gets hurt. 

Mark your calendar: World Giraffe Day is on June 21! For more fascinating giraffe facts (say that three times fast!), check out the Giraffe Conservation Foundation's website.

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