This Fish Caught With Live, Tongue-Eating Parasite in Its Mouth Needs Its Own Horror Movie

by Matthew Memrick

Just in time for the Halloween horror movie season, a caught Texas fish showed off a surprise in its mouth – a live, tongue-eating parasite.

Fox News reported that state park workers in Texas recently revealed an image of a fish with a living louse in its mouth, in place of its tongue.

 Don’t just assume the parasite was a product of an oil spill or anything. This happens quite a bit.

Ain’t nature grand? I mean, just another horror fish photo to keep anglers up a night.

Louse, Fish Come Together

Texas Parks and Wildlife officials posted the Oct. 19 photo to the Galveston Island State Park Facebook page. 

The post read, “inside this Atlantic Croaker’s mouth is a parasitic isopod called a tongue-eating louse. This parasite detaches the fish’s tongue, attaches itself to the fish’s mouth, and becomes its tongue.” 

Basically, it cuts off the tongue’s blood vessels, and the tongue just falls right off.

Notably, the parasite survives by feeding off the fish’s mucus. Gross, right? Texas Parks and Wildlife officials mentioned that this louse and fish union is the only known case where a parasite “functionally replaces a host’s organ.”

Officials made you look when they titled the photo, “Martian spotted at Galveston Island State Park.”

The Atlantic Croker is not the only fish that this parasite loves. In 2017, London’s Natural History Museum had a top wildlife photographer competition with one participant submitting a photo of three clownfish, each with a louse nesting in the fish mouths.

Social Media Recoils At Sight

Many commenters seemed taken aback by the photo.

One person wrote: “I know that some say it won’t hurt you, but I would never eat any fish if this thing was found inside it.”

Another wisecracker, interested in joining the fray, leaped into the Facebook post conversation with both feet.

“Inspection time,” Douglas Anderson said. “I assume one is unable to remove the parasite in the field. If you did, the fish would not be able to talk to you without its parasitic tongue. 🧐”

Officials say the louse is not harmful to humans, but you better check your fish’s mouth. However, in a Puerto Rico lawsuit involving a supermarket chain selling fish with the organism, scientists found the louse was part of some people’s diets. Just saying.

Also, in 2009, the BBC reported on an instance in the Jersey Island between England and France. Marine researcher Paul Chambers from the Société Jersiaise said the louse might bite you if you separate it from the host. So, be aware of that fun fact.

“It doesn’t affect humans other than if you do actually come across a live one and try and pick it up – they are quite vicious, they will deliver a good nip,” Chambers said.