These are photos of fish that have fallen prey to a very unusual parasite. The tongue-eating louse is a species of parasitic isopod that gains entry to fish via their gills and then clamps onto their tongues with its legs. It does not actually eat the fish’s tongue; rather, it cuts off the tongue’s blood supply, causing it to atrophy and die. Then the parasite takes the place of the tongue, living inside the fish’s mouth and eating its host’s blood or mucus.
Terrifying, right? Apparently someone in Hollywood thought so, because there is a new found-footage horror movie coming out in November that appears to be (loosely) based on these tongue-eating isopods. From the official synopsis of The Bay: “…a deadly plague is unleashed, turning the people of Chesapeake Bay into hosts for a mutant breed of parasites that take control of their minds, and eventually their bodies. A brutal and harrowing creature feature for the 21st century, THE BAY chronicles the descent of a small town into absolute terror.”
I spoke with isopod expert Dr. Stefanie Kaiser about the fascinating reality of these bizarre parasites. My Q &A with her will be coming soon to AAAS Member Central.