Parasites may be microscopic in size, but it’s that very reason why they are among the horrifying creatures that exist on the planet.
Cymothoa exigua is one of those truly creepy critters on this planet as it survives in the most disturbing way – feeding on the tongue of a fish.
This parasite or louse belongs to the same subphylum as crabs or lobster, Crustacea. You’ll be very grateful that it is a parasite that only thrives on fish. Females can reach a length of an inch and males are smaller, about half the size of females.
Cymothoa exigua is probably the most horrifying parasite that exists on the planet.
What’s disturbing about this critter is that it eats the fish’s tongue to the point that it replaces the marine animal’s organ. The snapper is its favorite target, but they can also choose other fish species as their host.
They are also protandric hermaphrodites; in other words, they begin life as males and later on as they mature, they become females.
Female Cymothoa exigua can grow up to an inch, while males are half their size.
The parasites start their life cycle when they secure a spot inside the fish’s gills. Once they have found their host, they stay in the gills until they reach maturity. Once the lice have developed, they could change their sexes. The mature lice then leave the gills and slowly find their way to the base of the tongue – where they start to party.
They feed off on the blood-rich organ to the point that it dies and withers away. Surprisingly, the fish doesn’t die even with the parasite stealing its tongue. They will somehow accept each other’s presence and the fish will use the parasite as its new tongue.
The parasite eats the tongue until it disappears. It then becomes the fish's new tongue.
Yes, a fish tongue-eating louse is already bad enough, but wait until you get to the most nightmarish thing about the parasites.
The parasites even mate inside the fish’s mouth, giving birth to another group of horrific tongue-eating creatures.
So, what does this mean for the human population that enjoys fish? Not much really. The parasite may potentially bite you if you happen to buy fish that harbors it, but all in all, they are not a threat to humans.
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