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1. a long flexible prehensile trunk or snout, as of an elephant
2. the elongated mouthparts of certain insects, adapted for piercing or sucking food
3. any similar part or organ
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(1) The narrowed anterior part of the body of invertebrates that performs a sensory function (in some turbellarians) or serves to gather food particles (in echiurids). In priapulids and sipunculids the proboscis retracts into the body. The term “proboscis” is also used to designate the sharply differentiated anterior section of Enteropneusta that serves for digging in the bottom.

(2) A special movable anterior organ in nemertinoids and some turbellarians that is used to capture prey. The proboscis is especially well developed in nemertinoids.

(3) A tubelike organ of attachment in parasitic worms, for example, thorny-headed worms and tapeworms. The proboscis is armed with hooks and is often retractile.

(4) The externally protruding tubular pharynx of some annelid worms, for example, polychaetes and leeches.

(5) In certain arthropods, mouth apparatus in the form of an elongate tube adapted for sucking liquid food. The proboscis may be a sucking organ (as in trichopterons, lepidopterons, hymenopterons, and some dipterons) or a stinging and sucking organ capable of piercing animal or plant integuments (as in ticks, Homoptera, hemipterons, thrips, lice, fleas, and certain dipterons).




in certain reptiles (soft river tortoises) and mammals (most insectivores, tapirs, male elephant seals, elephants) the movable elongate nasal part of the snout with nostrils at its tip. The proboscis usually performs respiratory, olfactory, and tactile functions. Its degree of mobility and development varies in different animals. It is especially well developed in elephants, where it is formed by the concrescence of the elongated nose and the upper lip. The tip of the elephant’s proboscis, or trunk, is equipped with a movable fingerlike projection, which enables the animal to pick up even very small objects from the ground. The trunk serves to grasp food and to touch and hold objects. Water is sucked up into the trunk and then discharged into the mouth.

In certain invertebrates the modified, usually retractile, anterior part of the body or an outgrowth of it is also called a proboscis.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(invertebrate zoology)
A tubular organ of varying form and function on a large number of invertebrates, such as insects, annelids, and tapeworms.
(vertebrate zoology)
The flexible, elongated snout of certain mammals.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
Six specimens were caught with orchid pollinia attached to the proboscis. A Carolina sphinx (Manduca sexta) also was caught on one orchid, but it is only considered a "nectar thief" since it did not carry orchid pollinia.
Tell them to blow through the end of the party blower to watch the "proboscis" curl and uncurl.
Proboscis means "long nose," and old males like Ledan have really long noses.
1920) housed in the Bolus Herbarium in Cape Town, which clearly shows a horsefly (Tabanidae) with pollinaria of the orchid attached to its long proboscis (see Johnson and Johnson 1993).
Inouye (1978) inferred that the foraging preferences resulted from consumptive competition, and that the match between proboscis length and corolla tube length provided a basis for resource partitioning by the bees.
The funny-looking proboscis (pro-BAHS-ihs)_ monkey is named for its most noticeable feature -- its proboscis, or "long nose."
An unrolled proboscis is no guarantee the moth will feed, Lopez adds.
'I find the stunning variety of wildlife here such an inspiration, from the beautiful Malaysian tigers and tapirs to the gorgeous colours of the orang utans, proboscis monkeys and hornbills.
Researchers studying proboscis monkeys in Malaysia found that males with exaggerated masculine traits, such as big noses, "serve as advertisements to females in mate selection".
Member of the order Lepidoptera have, like some other insects, a proboscis - a tongue/needle-like tube they use for sucking and eating.