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Why can’t everybody roll their tongues? © iStock

Why can’t everybody roll their tongues?

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A curling tongue is often explained by a tongue-rolling gene, but is that actually the case?

Asked by: Curtis Mortimer, Northampton


Scientists aren’t sure. There is a long-standing myth that tongue rolling is controlled by a single gene, but this was based on a single piece of flawed research and was debunked as early as 1952.

Tongue rolling seems to be an ability that comes with practice, not something you are born with. The most likely explanation is that because tongue rolling isn’t useful for speaking, whistling, talking, kissing or anything else apart from showing off at parties, some of us just never got around to mastering the skill.


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luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.


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