On the Air: December 14, 2014
This isopod has replaced the fish's tongue. Credit: Marco Vinci, Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

Here’s a tasty little story that’s likely to set your tongue a-waggin’. In fact, it’ll probably make you grateful that you have a tongue to wag at all. It’s the tale of a marine critter no bigger than the tip of your little finger that invades the mouth of a fish and eats its tongue. It then becomes a replacement for the tongue.

The creature has the tongue-twisting name of Cymothoa exigua. It’s an isopod — a type of crustacean. It’s found in the Gulf of California and other waters along the eastern Pacific.

In Print: December 1, 2014
This black sea bass is exhibiting barotrauma. Note the stomach extruding from the mouth. Credit: Jeff Buckel.

A rapid ascent from deep water to the surface means a rapid drop in pressure. That can expand a fish’s swim bladder – the organ that helps a fish control its buoyancy – so much that it pushes other organs aside or even out a fish’s mouth. Scientists have worried that this “barotrauma” might permanently harm a fish, making it harder for deep water fish to survive if they are released. Fortunately, at least one popular sport fish can overcome this trauma.