Parrots have neither lips nor teeth, but that doesn't stop them from producing dead-on imitations of human speech. Now researchers have learned part of the reason: like humans, parrots use their tongues to form sounds. As they report today in The Journal of Experimental Biology, scientists took x-ray movies of monk parakeets, Myiopsitta monachus, South American natives that can be trained to speak but aren't star talkers. The parakeets lowered their tongues during loud, squeaky "contact calls" made when the birds can't see each other and during longer, trilling "greeting calls" made to show a social connection. As seen in the video, the parakeets also moved their tongues up and down while chattering. No other type of bird is known to move its tongue to vocalize. Parrots use their mobile, muscular tongues to explore their environment and manipulate food. Those capable organs, just by coincidence, also help parrots utter greetings in words that even humans can understand.
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