Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Creature Feature: Cymothoa exigua.

This blog keeps saying that horror movies need more biodiversity. There are too many shark, crocodile, and snake movies out there. The world is full of untouched terrors that would make great movies, but simply aren't as "classic" as giant, scary predators.

Well, we had no clue this one had a horror flick until it was found in a video store:

After looking at some reviews, The Bay may actually turn out to be a good one. It's been called "eco-terror" and has enough basis in reality to warrant a bio-art entry. The biggest flaw I've seen in reviews are the "found footage" effects. The basis for that movie is equally terrifying:


You, dear reader, are probably in denial of what you are actually seeing. That is indeed a small crustacean inside the mouth of a fish. In fact, that crustacean is so deeply embedded into the fish's mouth that it has actually replaced the fish's tongue.

The real name of this Saw-tier horror is Cymothoa exigua. It primarily parasitizes snapper species found in Costa Rica, but the range of hosts may be expanding. It is also known as the "tongue-eating louse" for obvious reasons. The louse first extracts out of the fish's tongue, effectively numbing it, then sits its lousy rear right where the old tongue was, attaching itself to the membranes thereon. The isopod then becomes little more than a tongue with eyes: its limbs atrophy, it becomes a little more swollen, and so forth. The fish can use the new critter just like a regular tongue, and the isopod gets delicious mucous and other non-horror-flick munchies and a ride. This is the only known instance of a parasite replacing an entire organ - so far.

Hey fish, wanna free tongue piercing? Some stupid fish say "yes."

Here's another fascinating thing: only the females eat the fish's tongue. The males have to live in the gills, which is also probably not pleasant for the fish. They are technically born males, with only the largest of the bunch swimming off and becoming little more than a tongue with eyes. The new tongue-lice have to find a host fast. Nobody ever said life as a tongue was easy.

Remember that pic where the giant isopods wanted our Doritos? Yeah. Apparently, if this continues onto land, they will get their Doritos...by replacing our tongues. Then they'll have alllll the salty snack foods that giant deep-sea crustaceans crave. We wish more horror flicks could get that creative.  Have a nice night!

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