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Cymothoa springbok
πŸ“Έ by @ocean_ecstasea

A perfect picture, depicting this newly discovered species of tongue-eating louse inside the mouth of a live carpenter (Argyrozona argyrozona).

In fact, this is the first photographic documentation of this new species of tongue replicating crustacean, which was photographed off the coast of Struisbaai, South Africa.

When compared to its relative Cymothoa exigua, Cymothoa springbok is much larger and possesses a mightier mustachio than exigua, but its behavior and modus operandi are almost exactly the same.

In both species, all offspring are born male. They float around the ocean waiting for a proper host fish to get within range, at which time the isopods will attach themselves to the gill arches of the fish.

Once attached, the oldest of the bunch will switch sexes to female and begin to grow much larger, her eyes will get smaller and her legs will grow longer. Once the transformation is complete, it’s time to move to the tongue.

Once there, the parasitic isopod clamps down and cuts off the blood supply to the fishes licker, causing it to atrophy and fall off due to lack of circulation. The remaining stump is all the parasite needs as it takes the place of the fishes tongue permanently.

The louse feeds off of the blood supplied to the now missing tongue, which is an insignificant amount so barely noticed by the fish. There is no benefit to the parasite draining the fish completely, as the death of the host would mean the end for the louse as well.

The remaining males still latched to the gill arches are kept around for mating purposes, they remain there feeding off of particles in the water that drift in and out of the fishes gills when they are not needed.

So far, the Cymothoa springbok has been found in carpenter (Argyrozona argyrozona) fish exclusively.


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