Posts Tagged ‘cymothoa exigua’

The Nastiest Parasite Ever

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

Sometimes you run across something so disgusting you just have to share. I already traumatized my co-workers with this one, but then I realized I hadn’t shared it with you yet, my fine readers.

Cymothoa exigua is, simply put, the nastiest parasite ever. I ran into this bugger studying crustaceans for a project at work. Cymothoa exigua is the only known parasite that functionally replaces a complete organ, in this case the tongue. It is born as a nymph and swims in the ocean until it finds a spotted rose snapper. It then enters through the fish’s gill and attaches itself to the base of fish’s tongue. The parasite diverts blood from the tongue to feed itself. As it grows and clamps around the tongue cutting off blood flow, the fish’s tongue eventually withers away and dies.

Now here’s where it gets weird: Cymothoa becomes a functional replacement for the animal’s missing tongue. Attached to the tongue stub, the fish is able to use Cymothoa as it would it’s own natural tongue, except that Cymothoa shares what the fish eats. As the fish feeds, Cymothoa consumes some of the food right out of the fish’s mouth.

After reading what the parasite does, I searched for a picture expecting to see a formless mass of flesh much like other parasites. To my shock and horror, I saw THIS:

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwww!! Now that’s an image I won’t be getting out of my mind for a while.