Tongue Eating Louse Facts
- Though obviously, the Tongue Eating Louse would constitute a less than appealing creature for most people, scientifically speaking it forms a remarkable adaptation.
- This remains an ocean-dwelling species of louse, inhabiting most warm oceans. As its name implies, it enters the mouth of a fish and bites the tongue. The louse attaches itself to the muscles at the base of the tongue and cuts off the supply of blood to the organ.
- In time, the organ atrophies and falls away. At this time the louse actually becomes the tongue of the fish.
- This represents the only known instance of a parasite actually physically replacing an organ in its host. Only the female does this, however. The males attach themselves to the gills, directly behind the female.
Tongue Eating Louse Physical Description
Despite its rather dramatic appearance, the Tongue Eating Louse remains a small creature, that also displays sexual dimorphism. Adult females attain an average length of roughly 1.1 in (29 mm), while males only reach a length of 0.55 in (14 mm).
As an isopod, which constitutes a crustacean, it possesses a segmented exoskeleton.
Coloring varies but typically consists of shades of green or gray.
Species: C. exigua
Tongue Eating Louse Mystery
The Tongue Eating Louse does not appear to cause any other damage to the host. Once the tongue has been replaced, the parasite feeds directly upon the blood and mucous of the host fish. Perhaps rather disgusting, yet true.
Aside from this information, scientists know little about the louse’s lifecycle. For reasons not yet clear, they appear to be selective of the species of fish the parasitize. To date, they have only been found in eight species of fish. The creatures pose no threat to humans unless they are handled directly. In that instance, they are capable of inflicting a painful bite.
Though present in most warm oceans, it appears to be most prevalent off the coast of North America.