Monday, March 08, 2010

Science is just so darn cool!

And nature?

Well, nature sometimes just plain goes beyond description...

Remember a while ago, when I introduced us all to our new Isopod overlords?

Well, after meeting one (admittedly dead in a jar of formaldehyde) at the Smithsonian a couple of months ago, I'm delighted to find out a bit more about them.

Are you sitting down? Well, meet Cymothoa exigua ... "tongue-eating louse"

Get ready for what they do to fish!

Yes, you really are seeing what you think you're seeing. That is an isopod that has replaced the tongue of that fish.

No. I'm really not making it up.

This parasite enters through the gills, and then attaches itself at the base of the spotted rose snapper's (Lutjanus guttatus) tongue. It extracts blood through the claws on its front, causing the tongue to atrophy from lack of blood. The parasite then replaces the fish's tongue by attaching its own body to the muscles of the tongue stub. The fish is able to use the parasite just like a normal tongue. It appears that the parasite does not cause any other damage to the host fish.

Marine researcher Paul Chambers, from the Société Jersiaise, was one of the fishing party and identified the find.

He said he was surprised to find the isopod away from the Mediterranean sea.

Isopods are normally about 2cm (1in) long and live in fish, surviving on the animal's blood, in warm waters.

Mr Chambers told: "When we emptied the fish bag out there at the bottom was this incredibly ugly looking isopod.

"Really quite large, really quite hideous - if you turn it over its got dozens of these really sharp, nasty claws underneath and I thought 'that's a bit of a nasty beast'.

"I struggled for weeks to find an identification for this thing until, quite by chance I stumbled across something that looked similar in a Victorian journal.

"Apparently there's not too much ill effect to the fish itself except it's lost its tongue."

Experts at the University of Southampton confirmed that the creature was an isopod and that there had been several sightings of them in Cornwall in 1996.

Mr Chambers added: "It doesn't affect humans other than if you do actually come across a live one and try and pick it up - they are quite vicious, they will deliver a good nip."


DP said...

Oh, hey--you're blogging again!

The things I miss.

Ttony said...

Are they tax exiles?

Kathleen said...

The "ewww---yuck" factor on that is pretty high!

HJW said...

Yep, like it is going to make your skin crawl right the heck off.

...And go hide.

Gregory said...

I guess "Alien - Aliens - Even More Aliens - A Whole S***load of Aliens - Alien vs. Predator" and the upcoming sequel "You People Are Not Even Going To Be Able To Count The Aliens In This Movie" weren't as original as we thought.


Rick said...

Two disturbing images in one tidy package: the nasty little creature-for-a-tongue and the very human-like teeth on the fish itself. I believe the response of the crew in Alien, to use fire to kill the beast, is the correct one.