Parasite Got Your Tongue?

The female Cymothoa exigua will latch onto a fish's tongue, then extract blood until the tongue atrophies and falls off. By securing itself to the stub where the tongue used to be, the parasite become a stand-in tongue for the fish. The much-smaller males live in the fish's gill chamber, and may become female if there isn't already one in the fish's mouth.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Adult Cymothoa exigua males can become females. 00:36

  2. A female Cymothoa exigua attaches herself to the base of a fish's tongue, then extracts blood from it until the tongue withers and dies. 01:02

  3. Male Cymothoa exigua living in a fish's gill chamber might mate with the female living in the mouth. 01:34

Written by Curiosity Staff July 9, 2015