Penguins Can’t Taste Sweet or Bitter

It’s probably a good thing that penguins swallow their fish whole and don’t have access to the Food Network. Scientists have discovered that all species of penguins have lost the ability to detect three of the five basic food tastes: sweet, bitter, and umami, which is a savory flavor. “Their behavior of swallowing food whole, and their tongue structure and function, suggest that penguins need no taste perception,” said Prof. Jianzhi Zhang, who was the lead researcher on the study. While being able to taste different flavors can be a critical part of animal survival, penguins may have lost their tasting abilities in response to the environment: The body does not process signals to the brain from sweet, bitter, and umami taste receptors as well at low temperatures.