Welcome to the world of Cymothoa Exigua

We have made quite a few posts about this little beastie in the past, but we still get a lot of questions about this critter – in our most recent newsletter there was a picture of a False Clownfish with Cymothoa in the mouth…  We even had a reply asking if it was a Denise Pygmy Seahorse being eaten, which just goes to show how many people come to Lembeh and miss out on this little guy.
Cymothoa are parasitic crustaceans which live inside the mouth and gills of fish.  Cymothea exigua is famous for holding on to the tongue of the fish and eventually causing the tongue to atrophy through lack of blood, leading to the Cymothoa replacing the tongue. The fish continues to live a ‘normal’ life with a prosthetic Cymothoa tongue.
The above is the accepted academic description of what one of these little beasties is, however we have noticed that the tongue in the Clownfish does

Tongue Parasites

As already mentioned in previous blog posts there are many parasites here in Lembeh Strait that for example stick on the head or cheek of fishes. Another very common type of parasite is the tongue parasite (Tongue-Biter Cymathoid Isopod, Cymothoa exigua) that lives in the mouth of various fishes – mainly in Anemonefishes. They enter through…