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This terrifying parasite infects fish and then becomes their tongue

The stuff of nightmares

This terrifying parasite infects fish and then becomes their tongue
Tom Victor
28 April 2017

Before we begin, a warning. If you’re still eating your breakfast, or if you’re about to start eating, or if you ever want to eat again, don’t read this just yet.

With Thursday being the new Friday, we know there’s every chance you’ll be in a fragile mood this morning, and we just want to look after you.

Of course, you might say if we really wanted to look after you then we wouldn’t be writing about a tongue-hijacking parasite at all, but nobody’s perfect.

Anyway, finish that bacon roll, dust off the last of your coffee and then spit it back out when you realise we just wrote the words ‘tongue-hijacking parasite’.

We’re talking about this little fella, Cymothoa Exigua, who has definitely shown up in your nightmares whether you know it or not.

It’s essentially nature’s way of saying “Lovely tongue you’ve got there. It would be a shame if someone…replaced it with a grinning parasite”.

And it enters a fish’s body through the gills. It’s not exactly something you can prepare yourself for if you’re a fish.

Actually wait, let us back up a minute. According to Dr Yasmin, who posted that terrifying photo and description, the situation is somehow both better and worse than we might expect for any fish that gets this unwanted guest. As she explains:

“The fish actually thrives!” – so far, so good.

“Also, the parasite begins as a male, becomes female then has sex with a male parasite inside the fish's mouth.” – considerably less good.

So they reproduce by banging inside the fish’s mouth – that feels pretty intrusive. Basically we’re saying you need to stop complaining about your flatmate’s loud sex because these fish have it a whole lot worse.

We’re still working out where it ranks in comparison to some of the other terrifying sea creatures around, like the marine spider.

Or the frilled shark.

Or this weird bastard.

For the time being we’ll go with “not as visually imposing as the others, but much more of a dickhead”.

Thankfully the Cymothoa Exigua isn’t capable of doing the same to a human…yet.

(Image: Twitter/DoctorYasmin)