A post on Reddit of a parasite that enters a fish through its gills, eats its tongue and replaces it has stunned viewers online.
Known as Cymothoa exigua, or the tongue-eating louse, it is a parasite that belongs to the Cymothoidae (ectoparasite) family.
The process begins with the parasite initially entering the fish through its gills then severs the blood vessels in the fish's tongue which causes the tongue to fall off.
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The parasite then attaches itself to the remaining section of the tongue and it becomes the fish's new tongue.
While the parasite is not believed to be harmful to humans, it may bite if it becomes separated from its host.
The post of the parasite on Reddit went viral, garnering over 5,000 upvotes and over 300 comments from users who mostly demonstrated their shock and fear of the grim creature.
One Redittor wrote: "I've always had this (maybe irrational?) fear that holding anything like that would give it cause to burrow into my skin and proceed get me too!", as the post showed a person holding the fish in his hands.
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A second said: "The nasty part is that these guys lay their eggs in the gills of their hosts. So since they are already in there to begin with, straddling the tongue-analog to feed off whatever the fish is eating is a quite literally a no-brainer."
One user was correct in his analysis that the parasite is not harmful to humans as they commented: "It's just a sea bug that has a parasitic niche. It might bite them, but is otherwise harmless to humans."
Some Reddit users saw the lighter side of the post with one explaining the human equivalent of the parasite, quipping: "That's like eating some guys arm because you're hungry and then buying him a prosthetic which automatically feeds you when he's eating".
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