tongue-eating louseimage credit:
tongue-eating louseimage credit: Matthew R. Gilligan
tongue-eating louseimage credit: Matthew R. Gilligan
Habitat: off the coast of California

The Cymothoa exigua, more commonly known as the tongue-eating louse (guess that answers the title question..) is a parasitic crustacean that is absolutely disgusting. What, you didn’t think I would just post about adorable pygmy opossums all day now did you? The isopod enters through the gills of the fish and attaches itself to the base of the fish’s tongue. Using its claws, the louse extracts blood from the tongue, gradually causing it to atrophy from lack of blood. Then, the parasite replaces the fish’s tongue by attaching itself to the muscles of the exposed tongue stub. Now, here’s the real kicker (or should I say licker! haha): The fish uses the louse just like it would naturally use its tongue! This is the only instance where a parasite functionally replaces a lost organ.Horrible, revolting, and yet… kinda cool?

P.S. Thanks go to Lance for this creature!