Officials at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department have discovered a strange parasite that eats a fish’s tongue and takes its place. In a first-of-its-kind discovery, the officials found that the parasite not only eats a fish’s tongue, but it replaces the organ and starts feasting on the mucus in its mouth.
Referred to as both a snapper-choking isopod and tongue-eating louse, the strange creature resembles a pill bug, according to the experts who witnessed it firsthand. A picture of the parasite inside a fish’s mouth has been making rounds on social media, leaving many bewildered. The fish containing the parasite was found at Galveston Island State Park, according to officials.
This is the first time scientists have seen a parasite replacing an entire organ in the host’s body. HuffPost supports this claim, saying this is “the only known example of a parasite replacing an organ of its host.” In essence, the parasite becomes part of the fish to survive on the mucus excreted in the fish’s mouth. It is not clear what the long-term effects of having that parasite inside the fish mouth would be.
Scientists are currently unable to explain how this could be possible, but officials say that the parasite “does not kill the fish or affect humans.” Still, the news of a monitor parasite in the mouth of a fish has raised questions about human health and safety regarding the parasite. Though the parasite might sound as scary as something out of the movies, it is not fatal, officials say. In a Facebook post, they clarified that the creature does not kill fish or humans.
Despite reassurances, many social media users found the news alarming. “Thanks for the new nightmare material. The old monsters were getting kind of boring,” said one commenter.
Lead image via Galveston Island State Park – Texas Parks and Wildlife