Tongue eating parasite picture

Bizarre Creature – The Tongue Eating Parasite

By Anupum Pant


Firstly, if you are eating something, or you are weak at heart, then go away. It isn’t going to be a pleasant one today because we are going to look at a really bizarre, and probably one of the most grossest creature ever – The tongue eating parasite.

Not that it is really needed here, but in case someone comes searching for it, the scientific name of this isopod is Cymothoa Exigua. It is one of those very large group of animals that includes crabs and lobster – called Crustacean. This one lives in the ocean and is parasitic. That means this creature lives and benefits at the expense of the other, called the host (fish in this case).

Changing Sex

Protandry hermaphroditism: Another interesting thing about these isopods is that the adult males can turn themselves into females. When a creature changes sex from male to female, it is called Protandry. This changing of sex at some point in life is called Sequential hermaphroditism. So, the tongue eating parasite is a Protandric Hermaphrodite. But that isn’t even what we came here for…The main tongue eating part is coming…

The Life of Cymothoa Exigua

The life cycle of this parasite starts with these little ones attaching themselves to gills of, say a Snapper(or others). They enter the body of a fish through gills. When they mature inside, all of them are males. Later, since they are Protandric Hermaphrodites, one of these matured males turns into a female. During this time the males are still attached to the gill arches.

The male that turns into a female, goes to the base of the tongue of this fish and attaches itself to it. It feeds on the tongue and destroys it. Then the parasite attaches itself to the stub and starts acting as a prosthetic tongue!

If you are not in a mood to read, the woman in the video below explains it nicely.

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