It makes you wonder how many tongue-eating parasites you've eaten in your lifetime...
A British mother who opened a can of tuna for her daughter was sickened last week when she saw a pair of black eyes staring back at her. The mystery creature was very small and appeared to have no body. When she took to Twitter to ask food producer Princes what on earth it was, they claimed it must be a Megalopa- an immature crab often eaten by tuna. Experts at London’s Natural History Museum disagreed, however, identifying the creature as the head of a tongue-eating parasite called Cymothoa exigua.
This is where the story gets nasty. Cymothoa exigua isn’t something you would want to know about, let alone eat. It crawls into the fish’s gills and attaches itself to the base of the tongue, sucking away at the blood until the tongue (but not the fish) dies. It then acts as a replacement tongue, doing quite a good job of disguising itself as the real thing.
This photo of the species is taken from a YouTube video in which a scientist stabs what at first appears to be an ordinary fish tongue, cut from the animal. Suddenly the creature’s legs start to move, and as it lifts it’s head you can see the same black eyes found in the can of tuna. The video below explains in more detail how the creature latches on to its prey…Eugh. Is this another reason to buy fresh food wherever possible?