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Wednesday, October 14, 2009
This just in from one of my nerdy friends...
Cymothoa exigua or the Tongue eating louse is a parasiticcrustacean of the family Cymothoidae. It tends to be 3 to 4 cm long. This parasite attaches itself at the base of the spotted rose snapper’s (Lutjanus guttatus) tongue, entering the fish’s mouth through its gills. It then proceeds to extract blood through the claws on its front three pairs of legs. As the parasite grows, less and less blood reaches the tongue, and eventually the organ atrophies from lack of blood. The parasite then replaces the fish’s tongue by attaching its own body to the muscles of the tongue stub. The fish is able to use the parasite just like a normal tongue. It appears that the parasite does not cause any other damage to the host fish. Once C. exigua replaces the tongue, some feed on the host’s blood and many others feed on fish mucus. They do not eat scraps of the fish’s food. This is the only known case of a parasite functionally replacing a host organ.
There are many species of Cymothoa, but only C. exigua is known to consume and replace its host’s tongue. (via wiki)