Tongue flicking behaviour is frequently seen in (pet) Leopard geckos when they are active. They will often go around and ‘lick’ things around them.
Unlike for example Chameleons, Leopard geckos do not have long, sticky, tongues to catch prey from a distance. They also don’t lick things per se.
Tongue flicking behaviour (or tasting behaviour) is actually an additional way for Leopard geckos to smell or test their environment. Most other reptiles and many animals also has this ability.
After each tongue flick, microscopic particles from the environment collects on the surface of the tongue. The tongue is then pushed into an opening inside the upper part of the mouth which connects it to a sensory part of the reptile brain. This area is also called the Jacobson’s organ or the vomeronasal organ. The vemeronasal organ has the ability to decipher these particles in order to make the reptile ‘understand’ its environment a little better.
It is currently believed that in many animals, the vemeronasal organ is responsible for detecting pheromones, aiding in reproduction and social behaviour.
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