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Cymothoa exigua (Essay Sample)


The task was to describe the tongue eationg louse (Cymothoa exigua) based on its biological and ecological aspects


The Tongue-Eating Louse
The Tongue-eating louse
Biological Aspects
The tongue-eating louse is a rare marine ectoparasite with the scientific name Cymothoa exigua, and it is classified as follows:
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: crustacea
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Isopoda
Family: Cymothoa
Species: exigua
The parasite exhibits a crustacean body form, and it’s divided into three regions, the cephalon, which makes up the head, the pereon that forms the thorax, and the pleon, which is the abdomen. The parasite has compound eyes with two pairs of antenna, and its jaws are in four sets.
Figure 1: Anatomy of Cymothoa exigua. Source: Brusca,1997
The thorax of the parasite has seven pairs of unbranched legs referred to as pereopods that it uses for attachment to the host and also for locomotion, the pleon consists of pleotelson which it uses for swimming and respiration. The organism is a parasite during its juvenile stage, and the female can be approximately 1inch in length while the male half an inch. The isopod is a parasite to only eight species of fish: the three types of snappers, three types of drums, grunt, and also grunion. The exciting factor about the organism is that, like a parasite, the female enters its host through the mouth and attaches itself to the tongue; it then feeds on the blood and mucus of the host tongue, eventually rendering it atrophy hence it falls off. The parasite attaches itself to the stub and acts as the new tongue of the host, and on the other hand, the male leaves in the gills of the fish.
The phylogeny of the parasite is based on Brusca, who showed that the parasite originated from a short-tailed form that is characterized by highly reduced pleotelson due to the transition from sedentary to infaunal lifestyle and with anus forming at the terminals. One intriguing factor about the parasite is that the parasite gets into the host and mature as males. Still, when another one gets into the host, it stimulates sex change to the other so that the male will remain in the gills, and females migrate to the tongue (Brusca,1981).
Figure 2: Cymothoa exigua attaching itself to the host tongue. Source: Brusca,1997
Ecological Aspects
The parasite Cymothoa exigua has a widespread distribution, but its commonly found in the gulf of Ecuador and California, but some have also been found in the U.K. oceans. The parasite occupies waters from 7-200 ft in depth. The parasite occupies almost 50% of benthic organisms in the deep-sea, and its abundance is based on the availability of its hosts and the lack of its competitors. The parasite has been seen to occupy its specific habitat along the gulf. Still, due to factors such as changes in temperature and water pollution, they have since migrated to other areas to inhabit.
Figure 3: Distribution of Cymothoa exigua. Source: Poore & Bruce,2012
After the female parasite has completed its process of anchoring herself to the host, mating takes place, and it feeds by sucking blood from the host by using its five sets of jaws. The jaws are modified to form straw-like devices for sucking. The parasite and the host co-exist together because once the tongue of the fish is gone, it has to depend on the parasite as its new tongue. In contrast, the parasite itself benefits by obtaining food, and the host mouth becomes its new habitat for survival and reproduction.
Cultural and Economic Aspects
Traditional documents have no records of Cymothoa exigua indicated that the parasite is not well known to humans, but recently increase study in marine life is what has shade light on the parasite. For the few cases of encounters of the parasite by people, some had reported of its disgusting nature of parasitism and even some individuals suing food outlets of potential food poisoning when the parasite was found in fish dishes like in the case of Puerto Rico where they import snappers which are shared hosts for the parasite. As a parasite, the organism possesses a significant effect on the host by reducing its lifespan and, to some extent, even death through the lesions it creates, due to this effect the fishermen and even consumers regard the parasite as very harmful to the marine population of its target hosts.
A parasite disrupts the normal behavior of its host and with the absurd nature of how Cymothoa exigua carries out its parasitism to my opinion it is very disgusting, and the imagination of easting a fish that has been affected by the parasite is awful and even though some people may render it as harmless to even enjoy its delicacy, controlling its infestation on fish that are destined for commercial use should be a priority (Miller,2013).
Figure 4: Fish infested with Cymothoa exigua. Source: Poore & Bruce,2012
A Glance into the Future
The parasite Cymothoa exigua is a rare marine creature that only targets its specific hosts, to the humans it does not cause any threat other than one getting a bite when you encounter it in the mouth of its host. To the few individuals who enjoy

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