Okay, I made that last bit up, but this bug is legit. That thing isn’t from a scene in Aliens and it’s name isn’t a spell from Harry Potter – though it totally should be. It’s ferral, and it is yet another reminder that science is freakin’ awesome.
According to Wikipedia, Cymothoa exigua, or the tongue-eating louse, enters through the gills, and then attaches itself at the base of a fish’s tongue.
It then proceeds to extract blood through the claws on its front and less blood reaches the tongue, and eventually the organ atrophies from lack of blood. The fish is able to use the parasite just like a normal tongue. It appears that the parasite does not cause any other damage to the host fish. Once C. exigua replaces the tongue, some feed on the host’s blood and many others feed on fish mucus.
So, let me get this straight – this little bastard is a vampire that sucks blood and keeps sucking until the organ it’s attached itself to completely atrophies, and sometimes eats boogers. So, it’s like the Twilight franchise, really.
A few more shots:
And just in case that didn’t skeeve you out quite enough, check out this little dude’s bigger cousin, the giant isopod. Apparently, some freaks out there keep these as pets. (For the record, we do NOT endorse or encourage people owning wild animals as pets, even if they’re really fucking cool face-hugger looking bugs like these.)
C. exigua photos from Fishing Fury and Science Made Cool.