Wild Fact #749 – Tongue-In-Cheek – Tongue-Eating Louse

The title of this Wild Fact should have been enough to keep you reading but I have to tell you up front that this post will highlight some of the most bizarre behaviour I have ever witnessed.  You are all in for a treat as we discover the Tongue-Eating Louse.  We might think this is incredibly interesting but I can guarantee you that the Rose Snapper, a type of fish, does not agree with us.

This parasite is a crustacean that tends to be about 3-4 cm (1.2-1.6″) long and is the only known parasite that actually replaces an organ.  Yes, that is correct, I said “replaces an organ”.  You can probably guess from their name which organ they replace.  When this parasite finds a Rose Snapper that they like they will attach themselves to the base of the fishes tongue.  At this point the parasitic crustacean will clamp down on the tongue and start drawing blood away from it using their claws.  Eventually the tongue will just wither away since it is being deprived of blood.

Tongue-Eating Louse

Once the pesky fish tongue is out of the way the parasitic louse will attach itself to the remaining tongue muscles and the fish can actually use the louse as a functioning tongue. Come on!  Tell me you are not impressed with this little parasite right now?  This has to be the most bizarre but fascinating thing I have heard of in a very long time.  This parasite will live out the rest of their life as the tongue of a fish where they will feed on the host’s blood or on the fish mucus.  I know, I too was hoping that the tongue would eat the same prey items as the fish.  Imagine how confused the fish would be if its tongue was stealing all of its food? This really sounds like it has the makings for a B-Rated horror movie.

That is the end of another parasitic Wild Fact which means tomorrow will be the last one dedicated to these weird little animals.

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