Spiders don’t have tongues in the same way as humans, but they have different interesting structures such as the ‘labium’ in their mouths that enable them to catch animals and eat.
At the front of their mouths, they have two fangs and chelicerae, which are limb-like structures at the front of their heads which connect venom glands to their fangs and provide the muscle movements for the fangs.
Inside their mouths, they have a labium, which performs the same actions as the tongue does for humans.
It allows the spider to process food and pass it on through their straw-like mouths into their stomachs.
Do Spiders Have Tongues?
No, spiders don’t have a tongue in a conventional meaning of the word. They have other structures that act as tongues and perform similar actions, though.
Most notably, the labium. It covers the back end of the spider’s mouth, and its role is to manipulate the prey and move the food to other parts of the body from the mouth.
The vast majority of spiders have a tube-like mouth that acts as a straw. Because they don’t have teeth, they have to liquify the food before they can consume it. They do that with special enzymes that they have in their venom, as they ingest it into the victim after catching it.
Some spiders will use their fangs (or chelicerae) to macerate the food. This enables them to process the food easier and make it digestible for their mouths and their digestion systems.
Not all spiders do this, though, especially not the spiders that have smaller fangs. Spiders with larger fangs will do this.
Once the animal they’ve caught is liquified or macerated, the spider can process the food easily. Using their straw-like mouths, they will suck the food into their mouths through the labium.
The role of the labium here is to move the food forwards and allow it to glide along the mouth towards the stomach.
How is the Spider’s Mouth Structured?
At the front of their mouths, spiders have fangs (or chelicerae), which will paralyze the target and pin it down while injecting the venom.
The spider’s mouth is constructed like a straw. in the upper part of the mouth, they have the labrum, while on each side there are mandibles. The labium is the floor of the mouth and acts similarly as the tongue.
Some of the earliest spiders had chewing mouthparts, but the spiders of today have no teeth or other chewing mouthparts. This means they have to rely on other structures to process their food.
The labrum is the upper-most part of the spider’s mouth, and it covers the mandibles. The role of the labrum is to hold down food while it’s processed in the mouth, which allows the spider to consume the food easier.
It is constructed as a single plate, which enables it to hold down the food more effectively. It may be seen as an upper lip at first glance.
Spiders have two mandibles on each side of their mouths. For some spiders, this part can perform the chewing movement but for the majority of spiders, it won’t help them chew food.
The labium is perhaps the most important “ingredient” of the spider’s mouth. It is essentially the floor of the mouth and the main role is to help the food progress down the spider’s body into the stomach.
It’s a single entity, just like the labrum, only located on the bottom of the mouth floor.
Most spiders also have the hypopharynx, which is meant to assist the food when it comes into the mouth and help it progress into the stomach. It is a globular structure located near the end of the mouth. It’s also often closely compared to the tongue that is found in vertebrates.
When the food passes the hypopharynx, it is transferred along and moved swiftly into other body parts of the spider, such as its stomach. From there, the food will be processed and the excess food and the waste will exit the spider, while the nutrients will enter the spider’s body to allow it to grow and survive.
How Do Spiders Eat Their Food?
Spiders only eat macerated or liquified foods because they don’t have teeth or the proper mouth structure to easily process bits of food.
After catching their prey, spiders will use their fangs to pin down the target and inject venom into the target. This will kill off the prey and make it easier to process.
However, catching the animal was only half the work. The other half comes when they have to process the food and make it digestible for their body structure.
They can do that in two ways:
- Some spiders use special enzymes that they inject into the target with their fangs, which liquifies the target and makes it much easier to process.
- Spiders with larger and stronger fangs will macerate the target and create small bits of food which they can then inject and process with ease.
Sometimes, if the target is small enough, spiders won’t have to go through processes like the above-mentioned ones.
But this only happens rarely, because spiders often eat larger animals than themselves, but they also eat twice as much food as humans do (in correlation with their size, of course).
Also, when spiders go after larger animals, they’ll have to use both methods for making the animal of prey easily digestible.
Because maceration or using enzymes is not enough, they will macerate it first with their fangs and then use enzymes to liquify the target and make it easier to digest.
MORE SPIDER ANATOMY ARTICLES:
Spiders don’t have a tongue like humans, but they have other structures in their mouths to compensate for the lack of tongue.
Most notably, the labium and the hypopharynx both play a similar role to the tongue in a human’s mouth, but they’re vastly different from a tongue.