Parasite Eats, Replaces Fish’s Tongue in Stomach-Churning Photo

by Tia Bailey
Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images

A photo has been shared of a parasite replacing its host’s tongue. Looking at this picture of the fish and parasite will make your stomach turn.

The photo was shared by Twitter user @Weird_Animals. They wrote: “Cymothoa exigua is a type of parasite that enters fish’s gills, eats their tongue, and then replaces it.”

The parasite in the photo is, to be honest, disgusting. It’s easy to feel sorry for the fish that fell victim to it. People in the replies were equally horrified at the image. One person said: “I’m never sleeping again. Also, that fish looks like it has human teeth on the top which is not helping at all.”

Another Twitter user summed up everyone’s feelings perfectly: “I miss my life ten seconds ago, when I didn’t know this thing existed.”

A similar photo surfaced last year in October. A fish in Texas was also affected by a parasite that took the place of its tongue.

Galveston Island State Park – Texas Parks and Wildlife shared an image onto their Facebook page. They said: “MARTIAN SPOTTED AT GALVESTON ISLAND STATE PARKOk, so not really… but this is still pretty spooky!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. The parasite then feeds on the fish’s mucus. It also happens to be the only known case where a parasite functionally replaces a host’s organ.It does not kill the fish or affect humans.”

Boaters Rid Fish of Parasites

At the very beginning of the month, a man was highly praised for helping out a fish with a parasite issue.

Surfer/free-diver Mark Healey was called the “fish whisperer” following his actions. Healey shared a video to his Instagram page of a big fish that floated over towards him while he was on a boat. He noticed parasites on the Sun Fish, and decided to help out.

“Healey’s Thai Massage. Sun Fish (Mola Mola) like to come up to the surface and lay on their side so Gulls will pick the parasites off of them. That’s what was happening when we saw this one. Thought I’d hook bradda up. It kept coming back for more and could’ve probably done it all day. Those parasites are pretty buried in there, but I think I made a little headway with the boat brush,” he wrote in the caption.

Many people took to the comments to share their thankfulness that Healey helped out the wildlife creature.

“It’s a cool moment when human and non human earthlings connect,” one commenter wrote.

Another person said: “What a legend. Caring costs nothing.”