Cymothoa exigua is a tiny crustacean that sneaks up on a fish (specifically, a red snapper) and works its way in through the gills. Typical parasite behavior so far.
Then it attaches itself to the base of the fish's tongue, the tongue evidently being the tastiest part of the fish (get it!?). The parasite uses its claws to dig into the tongue and drink the fish's blood--and that's just the beginning
Cymothoa Exigua in Human
It is currently believed that Cymothoa Exigua are not harmful to humans unless picked up alive, in which case they can bite.
A tongue-eating parasite inside the mouth of a red snapper purchased from a London fishmonger recently revolted its buyer and fascinated scientists.
Previously, scientists believed fish infected with the parasite, nicknamed the "tongue louse," existed solely in the Gulf of California. The find in England suggests the parasite's range may be expanding, according to a recent press release issued by a museum in England.
But does the Cymothoa mouth-squatter leave its fishy friend tongueless? Of course not. It does what any crafty parasite would do and replaces the old tongue with its own body.
The fish is actually able to use the parasite just like a normal tongue, only it has to share all the food with its new friend. Yes, the whole foster-tongue thing seems like a pretty nice gesture on the part of ol' Cymothoa until you remember there was nothing wrong with the fish's old tongue in the first place.
Cymothoa Exigua Life cycle
Not much is known about the life cycle of Cymothoa Exigua. It exhibits sexual reproduction. It is likely that juveniles first attach to the gills of a fish and become males. As they mature, they become females, with mating likely occurring on the gills. If there is no female present, within a pair of two males, one male can turn into a female after it grows to 10mm in length. The female then makes its way to the fish's mouth where it uses its front claws to attach to the fish’s tongue.
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