Entomology, chemical ecology, evidence-based environmentalism and science in general. I like big bugs and I cannot lie.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Freaky Friday: Isopod and chips?

As something of a connoisseur of creepy things with lots of legs, you can imagine how exited I was when a member of my knitting forum posted about two odd creatures she'd found in the mouth a snapper she's just cooked (I was in fact so excited it took me a couple of months to get around to blogging about it, but that's purely a reflection of my disorganisation rather than the awesomeness of the find). I won't say it's the coolest thing I've ever seen in that forum, because it also introduced me to Fatty Thor, but it came pretty damn close.  The knitter who found it doesn't want to be identified in case she is forever known as Snapper Tongue Louse Girl, but she was kind enough to send me some high resolution pictures of them which I've put behind a link because I know that my Dad sometimes reads this blog and I suspect he'd never eat again if he saw them.

Picture 1

Picture 2

So what are these marvelous mouth monsters?  They're female and male Cymothoa exigua, known to their friends as the tongue eating louse, and look only slightly less terrifying when not baked in a salt crust.  This aquatic distant relative of the woodlouse glories in the distinction of being the only parasite known to functionally replace the organ it destroys - the female (the larger of the two nightmarish nibbles in the pictures) enters the fish's mouth through the gill slits and eats the helpless creature's tongue, then using her pincers attaches herself to the stump and spend the rest of her life serving as a replacement, living on food and mucus in the fish's mouth.  The smaller of the two, romantically roasted with her, is the male who would have been clinging to the gills in the hope of a bit of tongue action.

All in all you might think that after going through all that, being baked in a salt crust probably came as a blessed relief for the poor red snapper, so I'll leave it to Bec Crew to explain how having an alien in its mouth could have been an advantage if the fish was shy talking to the lady snappers.