Cymothoa Exigua

AKA the tongue eating louse

The better half (females) of these parasitic isopods enter the host fish through the gills and zero in on the tongue.

Using its front claws, it proceeds to sever the blood vessels in the tongue and suck all the blood out, causing it to atrophy and fall away.

The parasite then replaces the fish’s tongue by attaching its own body to the muscles of the tongue stub.

This is the only known case of a parasite functionally replacing a host organ.

Once the tongue has been replaced, cymothoa exigua feeds on both the blood and mucus of the fish, along with any nutrients they can scrape away for themself when the fish eats.

When it’s time to reproduce, males will simply climb inside the hosts mouth and mate with the female while shes still attached.

She stays there indefinitely. Even while giving birth to a whole brood of young, she does so inside the fish’s mouth.

If the host fish dies, the parasite detaches itself from the tongue stub.

It is not fully known what happens to the parasite once they leave a dead host.



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