Tongue-eating creature found inside fish at Texas state park is the stuff of nightmares

Tongue-eating louse are actually common parasites in certain fish species

Tongue-eating louse or ‘snapper-choking isopod’ are somewhat common among certain species of fish, like Atlantic croaker (as pictured), spotted seatrout, and a few species of snapper. (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)

GALVESTON, Texas – We know it’s the spooky season but a tongue-eating parasite is apparently a real thing and it was recently found inside a fish at Galveston Island State Park.

A tongue-eating louse was found inside the mouth of an Atlantic Croaker this week and officials with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department took a photo and shared it on Facebook.

The alien-like parasite actually detaches the fish’s tongue before attaching itself to the fish’s mouth and becoming the tongue.

“Tongue-eating louse or ‘snapper-choking isopod’ are somewhat common among certain species of fish, like Atlantic croaker, spotted seatrout, and a few species of snapper,” said Coastal Fisheries Science Director Mark Fisher. “These are isopod crustaceans and are related to the pill bugs, aka rolly-pollies, you can find in your yard.”

MARTIAN SPOTTED AT GALVESTON ISLAND STATE PARK Ok, so not really… but this is still pretty spooky! Inside this...

Posted by Galveston Island State Park - Texas Parks and Wildlife on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The parasite feeds on the fish’s mucus but it does not kill the fish or affect humans, officials said in the Facebook post.

They also said it’s the only known case of a parasite functionally replacing the organ of its host.

“It can be a surprise to peer into a fish’s mouth and have another set of eyes looking back at you,” said Fisher.

Um, gross.

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About the Author:

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.