How is it possible that it's been over three years since the last appearance on this blog of TONGUE EATING ISOPODS!
Sorry to shout, but some things just call for ALL CAPS, and this is one of them. These crustaceans are parasites on certain fish. They doen't just eat the tongue, which would be bad enough. They basically attach themselves to the tongue and replace it, living in the fish's mouth and DRINKING ITS BLOOD.
We haven't seen these TONGUE EATING MONSTERS here since July 2008, and I wrote about them on my other blog only slightly more recently. I feel this is a dereliction of duty as a bad and ugly animal blogger, but today we've got a good reason to make up for it. Because it was recently discovered that due to human activity, there are even MORE of these nightmarish creatures than there used to be. Researchers studying the Ceratothoa italica species of isopod found that in areas affected by overfishing, the percentage of fish infected by this parasite was much higher.
The scientists seem to have mixed feelings as they often do: both bemoaning its effect when the balance of nature is disturbed, and yet giving the creature an affectionate nickname: they call it "Betty:"
Betty is quite gruesome and does remind you of the Alien films, but it’s a highly adapted and specialised animal which is very successful. Unfortunately, over-fishing upsets the balance of parasite and host and interferes with the whole eco-system.
Thanks for the tip - I think - to the blog of parasite expert Carl Zimmer, which you may -or may not - want to check out here.
-Wombat (No Relation)