I is for Isopod Facts – Tongue-Eating Louse, A-Z Collection of Animals

Isopod Facts, Tongue-Eating Louse

A-Z Collection of Cool Animals Challenge

I is for Isopod Facts

Today I bring you the following isopod facts for your, uh, enjoyment.  Eww?  What a bizarre creature!

The tongue-eating louse, or Isopod, is a strange white parasitic crustacean of the Cymothoidae family, best known for eating a host fish’s tongue, and then replacing it with itself, acting like a new tongue.


I is for Isopod Facts, Tongue-Eating Louse, A-Z Collection of Cool Animals Challenge

Isopod Facts

  • The tongue-eating louse enters the fish through the gills.
  • After attaching itself to the fish’s tongue, the parasite feeds on the tongue’s blood, extracting it with its front claws. This causes the fish’s tongue to atrophy from lack of blood.
  • The isopod then attaches itself to the stub of what remains of the tongue, and then becomes the fish’s new tongue.
  • If that isn’t strange enough, the fish will then go on doing what it’s always done — living an apparently normal life, using the louse just like a normal tongue, and grinding food against its teeth on the roof of the mouth.
  • Once the tongue is replaced, the louse will feed on the host’s blood or mucus. Other than replacing the fish’s tongue, it doesn’t appear that any other damage is caused to the host.
  • The tongue-eating louse is currently the only known parasite to replace a host’s organ in its entirety with itself.

Isopod Facts

  • The tongue-eating louse is commonly found from the Gulf of California south to north of the Gulf of Guayaquil, Ecuador. It has been recorded in waters ranging from 6 ft 7 in (2 meters) to almost 200 ft (60 m) deep.
  • Female Isopods range from 0.3–1.1 inches (8-29 mm) long and 0.16–0.55 inches (4–14 mm) wide.
  • The males measure 0.3–0.6 inches (7.5–15 mm) long and 0.12–0.28 inches (3–7 mm) wide.

Isopod Facts, Tongue-eating Louse

It is believed that this strange little creature is not harmful or poisonous to humans, although the louse can bite if picked up alive.

Sources for Isopod FactsWiki

Images:  RachaelB

Video: Animal Wire


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A QUESTION FOR YOU: What do you think of the ISOPOD – Tongue-eating louse?  Ewww?

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Jeanne Melanson, Founder of Animal Bliss, a very cool blog about animals - wildlife and domestic too

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12 thoughts on “I is for Isopod Facts – Tongue-Eating Louse, A-Z Collection of Animals”

  1. These are so cool! Kinda of freaky looking, but very fascinating. I’ve never seen anything like it, but am always surprised by all nature has to offer!

    • They pretty wild, aren’t they, Jessica? Freaky looking indeed. I sure wouldn’t want them in my mouth. Nature sure is grand. Hey, thanks so much for stopping by! I do appreciate your visit and hope you’ll come back soon. 🙂

  2. Omg. Wow. Thats so freaky. Wow. Love all the interesting animal facts and wow some cool and yucky ones. Lol love the site

  3. Wow! I’ve seen these images and thought they were photoshopped; I had no idea that this was real. This is such a cool factoid. Thanks!


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