Have you ever heard of a parasite that takes over the tongue of a fish and becomes its replacement? Meet Cymothoa Exigua, a parasitic crustacean that invades fish through their gills and cuts off their tongue, taking its place as the fish's new tongue. This post will explore the strange and fascinating life of Cymothoa Exigua, including its habits and the unique way in which it feeds.
If you've ever wondered about the strangeness of the animal kingdom, look no further than the Cymothoa Exigua. This parasitic crustacean is a species of isopod that belongs to the genus Cymothoa, which is known for its peculiar habit of living on the tongue of its fish hosts. Once it enters the fish's gills, it cuts off the fish's tongue and attaches itself in its place, becoming the fish's new tongue.
What's even more bizarre is that the Cymothoa Exigua can feed on the fish's blood and mucus, and it controls the fish's food intake by blocking its esophagus. This means that the fish is essentially forced to feed the parasite, which can grow to be up to one-fifth the size of the fish.
But that's not all. Cymothoa Exigua is known to have a unique trait in the animal kingdom: it's born male but transforms into a female as it matures. This sex-changing ability is known as sequential hermaphroditism and is extremely rare in the animal kingdom.
Despite its creepy and invasive nature, Cymothoa Exigua is not entirely harmful to its fish hosts. In some cases, the fish can even benefit from the relationship. For example, the parasite can help remove dead tissue from the fish's mouth, which can help prevent infection. Additionally, some fish will call on a type of shrimp called Pederson's cleaner shrimp, which will clean off the parasite and kill it.
While Cymothoa Exigua's feeding habits are certainly strange, they also have implications for the food chain. The parasite can reduce the amount of food available to the fish and, in turn, to larger predators that rely on that fish for food. However, it's also possible that the parasite's presence could help regulate fish populations by controlling the number of fish in a given area.
The world of parasites is full of fascinating and sometimes terrifying creatures, and the Cymothoa Exigua is no exception. Its ability to take over a fish's tongue and control its food intake is truly bizarre, and its sex-changing ability is a rare phenomenon in the animal kingdom. However, despite its creepy appearance, the Cymothoa Exigua plays an important role in its ecosystem and reminds us that even the most bizarre creatures can have a purpose in nature.