A recent study shows that Penguins can taste only sour and salty food. It has been discovered that Penguins, like most other birds, do not have the ability to taste sweet things. The research suggested that they lost three or five basic tastes during their long evolutionary period. The journal Current Biology has published the findings of the study in details.
Scientists conducted a genetic study on the flightless birds and found out that it no longer has the potential to identify around three to five basic tastes. The U.S. and China-based researchers explained that identifying tastes is an important survival need for most animals. However, for Penguins, this may not be of significant importance. This is because they swallow their food, fishes, as a whole.
Research says that many birds lack the attribute to taste sweet things. However, in most cases, they are equipped to detect bitter and meaty or umami flavors. The umami taste is the reason for the characteristic strong and savory flavor of meat. A lack of the taste bud for this particular taste is surprising for carnivorous animals. But in the case of Penguins, it is quite explainable. These animals, though they survive on fishes, do not have the need to chew their food. Instead, they gulp it at once.
In this context, Prof Jianzhi Zhang if the U.S.-based University of Michigan and China-based, Wuhan University, commented that Penguins do not need the taste perception. However, he also expressed concern and said that it is still not understood whether these habitual traits are a reason or consequence of the taste loss in Penguins.
The research was carried out when scientists discovered that Penguins lack some taste genes as they were decoding their genomes. They studied the DNA of the birds to find out that all species of the bird lack taste receptors for bitter, sweet and umami tastes.
Source: Current Biology