Home Animals The Bizarre Little Creature That Acts As The Tongue Of The Fish

The Bizarre Little Creature That Acts As The Tongue Of The Fish

This horrifying parasitic isopod lives in the mouths of fish and is a very little creature. This organism feeds on the blood of the fish it lives and, takes the place of the fish’s tongue. We at Viraltrendzs have featured many other extremely weird marine animals like this one before, such as the Sarcastic Fringehead, and the monster which looks like a cheeseburger with teeth may top them all.

The tongue-eating louse, Cymothoa exigua, is an isopod that mostly lives within the mouths of various fish. This category includes a wide range of animals, including crabs and shrimp.

These little creatures live for free in the mouths of fish.

These little creatures live for free in the mouths of fish.
Image credits : MrMiracle27

It is well known that these critters are capable of removing the tongue of the fish and replacing it with themselves. The tongue-eating louse is the only parasitic organism that is known to completely replace an organ in its host.

In contrast to the males, females may grow to be around an inch (2.5 cm) long. However, there is a spin. Each and every Cymothoa exigua begins its life as a male. Once they have settled into their new home within a fish and reached sexual maturity they undergo a gender change and become female. However, this only occurs if the space is not currently occupied by a female.

Cymothoa exigua parasites take over fish bodies and replace their tongues with themselves.

Cymothoa exigua parasites take over fish bodies and replace their tongues with themselves.
Image credit: Marco Vinci

This parasitic trip begins when the tongue-eating louse enters the fish via its gills and begins feeding on the fish’s tongue. In fact, this is how the majority of fish parasites invade their hosts. After making its way inside, the louse will go to the base of the fish’s tongue to settle down for its extended stay. After that, it uses its powerful legs to grip the tongue of the fish, so establishing its position within the mouth of the fish.

The parasite makes a hole in the tongue, which cuts off the flow of blood to that part of the tongue. Because of this, the fish’s tongue will ultimately fall off, leaving the fish with nothing more than a stump. The louse will then attach itself to the area where the organ was formerly located. It will function as a new tongue for the fish while feeding on the mucous and blood of the creature.

It’s fascinating to think about how the fish can use the louse as a functioning tongue and yet have a relatively normal lifestyle.

It's fascinating to think about how the fish can use the louse as a functioning tongue and yet have a relatively normal lifestyle.
Image credit: NOAA

Surprisingly, this does not result in the death of the fish since it is in the parasite’s best interest for the fish to have the longest possible lifespan. Fish may even use the louse as a substitute for their natural tongue. Despite its terrible appearance, it can carry out all the same tasks as a genuine tongue. The fish may continue to function normally while having a huge isopod as a partner in its mouth.

In the event that a fish is already taken, the larvae develop into adult males while still within the fish’s gills. Once both the female and the male have reached maturity, the male will crawl into the mouth of the host and mate with the female.

Then the female lice spend just a short period in gestation before giving birth to a new generation that will continue this dreadful cycle.

This little creature has a weird life cycle to match its spooky activities.

This little creature has a weird life cycle to match its spooky activities.
Image credit: Undy Bumgrope

The louse’s activities after the death of its host are not well known. It’s possible that it gives up trying to live with the fish. However, it might potentially separate from it and begin to hunt for a new host. Although snappers seem to be the preferred host for the tongue-eating louse, it has been found in other types of fish as well.

If you are worried that these parasites may harm humans, we have some good news for you. The worst thing that may happen if you touch a Cymothoa exigua is that it can bite your finger.

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